Five Words that Need to Die Horrible and Painful Deaths
Posted on August 13, 2020

Writers will often get lost inside their own lingo swamps. First drafts are littered with sub-par and overused words, and for good reason. When you’re just trying to get to the end, the most common terms will do. After all, that’s what editing is for. That’s when you open the thesaurus and start hunting for the right words for the right scenes. Sometimes you find a seldom-used Old English term that fits perfectly. But most of the time, the sharpest word from the prevalent vernacular is the right choice.

Even so, some words are so banal and overused that they no longer serve a viable purpose. They exist as nails on a chalkboard and need to die horrible, painful deaths. With that in mind, below are the top five terms that I think are long-overdue for execution.

Every writer can summon a list for the gallows. We all have words that grate on our nerves for a variety of reasons. For the record, I have likely used some of the terms below at one point or another. Sometimes a character needs them to sound authentic, or perhaps they make sense in a specific context. But in any regard, there has to be damn good reason to use any of these puke-terms.


Oh how I hate this word. In fact, I harbor more disgust for “awesome” than for all other words combined. It boils down to its excessive overuse in everyday speak. Without fail, someone will always describe something wholly mundane as somehow awesome. My eyelid will immediately twitch as my brain scoffs, “Oh really? Does it fill you with awe? Have you been awestruck by the sheer magnitude of this astonishingly magnificent thing?” The word has become synonymous with “good,” which has wrecked its intended meaning. No, the milkshake is not awesome. It’s a tasty treat, not the catalyst to an existential crisis.


Yet another word I have come to loathe due to its overuse, especially on bios and resumes. We can all name a friend who insists that they are “passionate” about a hobby, cause, or career. It’s used all-too-often as a placeholder for “I have experience with” or “I have liked for awhile.” You know who is passionate? Jane Goodall about saving gorillas. You know who isn’t passionate? Someone who managed an ice cream parlor for a summer and now claims to have a knack for leadership. Please, please stop saying that you are passionate about something unless you are ready, eager, and willing to devote your every waking breath to it.


Every writer with two neurons to rub together cringes when they hear this word. Yes, we realize that some dictionaries recognize it as a nonstandard variation. Yes, we know that it enjoys regular use in the public realm. But repeat after me … it’s REGARDLESS! REGARDLESS! AAAAH SHFDXSAKFH REGARDLESS! (loud grunt of frustration) The only reason that it’s part of the modern lexicon is that people have been misusing it for long enough to take note. Doesn’t make it right, though. It’s a nonsense word. No other term in the English language has a wider gulf between its proper and deviant versions. It’s now a living, breathing litmus test.


This one is a personal gripe, because I have never written “colonel” without typing the “R” key. It summons the red squiggle of shame, which confuses my brain and prompts a web search. I then confirm the asinine spelling and sigh with annoyance. Phonetically, it’s “kur-nuhl,” like a popcorn kernel, but saying “kernel” while staring at “colonel” hurts my head. It’s like saying “apple” while staring at an orange. This word makes absolutely no sense to me. I propose to the powers-that-be that we (a) pronounce it as written, or (b) retire the word completely and replace it with something phonetically logical.


Are you saying “okay” or referring to Oklahoma? I hate-hate-haaaate it when people use “OK” when they mean “okay.” The only acceptable use of the two-letter variant is when when typing a lowercase “ok” in response to a casual text message (and even then, I prefer the single “k”). Two capital letters in any other context is just weird and confusing. I understand that saying the letters conveys the meaning, but writing them in spite of an underlying word makes me want to rage-punch a wall. We don’t write “QT” when we mean “cutie,” so stop writing “OK” like it carries some sort of magical hall pass. It doesn’t.

Yup, those are the top five words that I think need to die horrible and painful deaths. I can also think of several phrases that may warrant their own list, so look for those in a future post. Until then … Colonel Sanders was passionate about his awesome chicken, irregardless of the haters, and that’s OK. See? It sounds like a glitching robot trying to pass as human.

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