9 Overloved Words and Phrases

Cut these from your content on Valentine’s Day (and always)

Jaime L. Brockway
4 min readFeb 15, 2024

Those extraneous embellishments in the form of unnecessary adverbs, redundant adjectives, and vague nouns are smothering your words of note.

Show them a little love by giving them room to breathe.

Here are 9 overloved words and phrases to delete from your content now.

Photo by Edz Norton on Unsplash

1. the fact that

William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, authors of the ubiquitous The Elements of Style, say the fact that is an “especially debilitating” expression that should be cut without exception.

The fact that can almost always be replaced. Here are some common replacements, according to The Elements of Style:

  • owing to the fact that —> since/because
  • in spite of the fact that —> though/although
  • call your attention to the fact that —> remind/notify you
  • I was unaware of the fact that —> I was unaware that/I did not know that
  • the fact that he had not succeeded —> his failure
  • the fact that I had arrived —> my arrival

Often, cutting the fact works well too:

“Putting aside the fact that nearly 1 in 4 Americans are unable to afford medical treatment” can become “Putting aside that…”

2. actually

Benjamin Dreyer, former copy chief of Random House, wrote in his book, Dreyer’s English, that actually can almost always be cut. We use it colloquially for emphasis, but it’s just drowning what would otherwise be a firm statement.

Dreyer goes on to suggest we also cut very, rather, really, quite, in fact, that said, pretty (the adverb, as in pretty great), of course, and that said.

3. first-ever

“It was the first parade in the town” means the same as “It was the first-ever parade in the town,” without the extra word.

If something is the first, we know it is the first…ever.

4. just/only

These, in adverb form, are often used before a measurement or number of some kind to emphasize the amazement of that measurement/number. “The round-trip flight costs just $300!” “The runner completed the marathon in only 3 hours!” But if the measurement/number is so amazing, it doesn’t need your petty just or only.

5. there are

There are delays the reader’s arrival to the substance of the sentence. (I was so close to writing just delays and then edited myself!)

“There are dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood that serve excellent pizza” can easily be “Dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood serve excellent pizza”—and it saves the audience from three say-nothing words (e.g., there are and that).

6. In addition to + also

Also is redundant when it follows an introductory participle phrase using in addition to.

For example, we don’t need to say, “In addition to providing delicious food, the restaurant also offers gorgeous views.” Cut the also.

Another example: “In addition to introducing new routes and destinations, Breeze also is expanding its fleet.” Cut the also!

7. that

Editors argue over this one. Some are totally against the overuse of that as a conjunction. Others say it’s necessary for clarity.

Personally, I’m all for excluding that wherever possible. It’s okay to write, “She told me you were going to the party,” instead of “She told me that you were going to the party.”

8. Unnecessary verb + preposition pairs

This one is my pet peeve. Do you really need to say open up? Or does open suffice?

You don’t need to say “She climbed up the ladder.” “She climbed the ladder” is sufficient.

Write out is another. You don’t need to say “She wrote out her name on the chalkboard.” “She wrote her name on the chalkboard” is great.

Conjure up should just be conjure.

Printed out —> printed. Seek out —> seek. Rise up —> rise.

The water cools down to 70 degrees —> The water cools to 70 degrees.

Next time you encounter a verb + preposition pair, ask yourself if the preposition is necessary.

9. including + and more

Including and and more are often used in a list of items, or a series, but as a general rule, they shouldn’t appear together.

Don’t say, “The city has tons of attractions, including a circus, museums, an array of restaurants, and more.”

Including already implies that a circus, museums, and an array of restaurants are only some of what the city has to offer—so we don’t need to say and more, which is vague anyway.

Alternatively, you might write, “The city offers a circus, museums, an array of restaurants, and more.”

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Jaime L. Brockway

Copy editor with 10 years’ experience. Former National Copy Chief of Time Out North America. Semicolon lover, despite what Kurt Vonnegut said.