Many words lose their effectiveness due to overuse. Give these words a dirt bath! Kill the dead words in your classroom. Never use them again, and you will propel your writing!
Dead words tell no tales! Instruct students to use them no more until they have moved away from their parents (For some, this could be a long, long time.) Post these words in your classroom, and when you hear their use, point to them and snarl. Hand back ALL papers that use a dead word. Kill them. Annihilate them. Bury them. Have a funeral for them in the schoolyard. They are history – not language arts.
Assign students to find synonyms for all dead words and start using them.
A list of dead words:
a lot (How many are there? Find the number and use it.)
awesome (The Grand Tetons are awesome. The Great Rift Valley is awesome. God is awesome!)
big (How big? Find the word for how big it is and use it.)
cool (Breezes are cool. Rain in spring is cool.)
small (How small? Find the word and use it.)
little (Stuart was little. How little? Find the word and use it.)
nice (Grandmas are nice. Save the word for grandmas.)
stuff (Use it as a verb to make a pillow soft or do it to a turkey.)
thing (What is it?)
very (Combine very with another word and it creates the correct word. Very + cold = frigid. Very + hard = difficult.)
good (Mother Teresa was good. Find another word.)
Do not overuse the Big Five: am, are, is, was, were. Using the Big 5 makes all writing passive, not active.
Passive: John is hiking up the mountain.
Active: John ascends the mountain.
Avoid using the subject/verb construction: I like…. Find a synonym for “like.”
Now, add to the list. How happy would you be if you never heard [insert a dead word here] again?
©2018 Douglas Hanks. All rights reserved.
Dead words in the forest photo by Eddie Howell.