7 Over-used Adjectives and How to Replace Them

Samantha Ruff
February 13, 2020 ·
6 min read
Vocabulary

Adjectives are incredibly useful words because they help us describe exactly what we are talking about.

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‘I have a talkative, older sister and a shy, younger brother.’

With a few simple words, I have described in considerable detail my position in the family and the personality of my sister and brother.

However, some adjectives are pretty non-descriptive, and totally over-used too. As a result, these adjectives end up telling us close to nothing. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

‘How was your day?’

Good!’

‘What’s your new teacher like?’

‘Nice!’

Now, there is a reason that conversation reminds you of one you might have with a surly teenager because good and nice are words that reveal next to absolutely nothing. How about these nice alternatives:

‘How was your day?’

‘Informative!’

‘What’s your new teacher like?’

‘Open-minded!’

Much better. Just with a simple change in the adjective, you can make the detail you provide so much more revealing and…informative!

Here are five more classically overused (and non-informative) adjectives that could be easily replaced:

Big

The U.S.A. is a big country. Sure it is. But what does big actually mean? It’s certainly vast (nearly 10 million km²), and has a massive population (nearly 330 million), but parts of it are deserted while some of the big cities are teeming with people.

Big just doesn’t do it justice, does it?

So next time you want to say that a 4×4 truck is a big car or basketball players are mostly big men (and women), why not substitute that word for something a little more descriptive under the circumstances. Monster trucks are so much more appealing (although obviously not quite the same), while most star basketball players are towering to say the least. Especially over us mere mortals.

Great

Ironically, the original meaning of great is big, and would actually be a far more interesting word if it was used that way, instead of coming to mean something a little more than good, and in fact, becoming a byword for ‘conversation over’.

‘How was your holiday?’

‘Great!’

Where can the conversation go from there?

‘How are you?’

‘Great!’

Again, it’s a conversation over. Although this word should have a positive connotation, it’s come to mean something that doesn’t quite get there. Why not try something else?

‘How was your holiday?’

‘Restful!’

‘How are you?’

‘Surviving!’

And from there, the conversation can develop.

Old

My phone is old. My grandfather is old. So are dinosaur bones. The earth is old. But so is our galaxy.

Let’s compare some of those numbers.

My phone = 3 years

My grandfather = 83 years

Dinosaur Bones = 68 – 245 million years

The earth = 4.543 billion years

Our galaxy = 13.51 billion years

Yep, definitely deserving of the same adjective. So while my phone is outdated, my grandfather is elderly. Dinosaur bones are prehistoric, while the earth and our galaxy are primordial.

Old? Forget about it!

New

Ha, and then there is the opposite of good-old old, which is just as useless.

Here are some things that can be classified as new:

My phone. Technology. A scientific approach. A theory.

But while my phone is the latest model, it uses cutting-edge technology, and while a scientific approach may be innovative, a theory may be novel, or even original and unique.

You get the point!

Important

When translated from many Latin languages into English, important can mean famous. And then if you think about the word ‘famous’ in English you could be speaking about someone who is infamous, or even notorious. That same person could be renowned or revered.

And as for things, discoveries, news or any other item you care to declare as important, just think a little bit about why it’s important, and then you immediately have an adjective to use to replace a word that is subjective in any case. After all, what is important to you may not be to me, and vice versa.

And there we go. Just a little bit of creativity can go a long way. Become a better communicator, and drop those tired, over-used adjectives.

Now boost your writing skill
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