Words to Avoid When Writing About Food

Samantha Ruff
April 29, 2020 ·
7 min read
Vocabulary

Writing about food is one of those activities that may seem easy, but is actually a little more difficult than it can at first appear. Of course, all of the usual writing considerations must be taken into account, such as good grammar, the right tone, and correct punctuation. However, the vocabulary can be a challenge.

The problem is that too many words used when describing food just don’t really describe anything at all. Or else they are just too cliché, or in the worst-case scenario, put people right off the food that you should in fact be encouraging them to eat.

Here is a list of some of the words that just don’t cut it when talking about food, along with some alternatives that will hit the spot just that much better.

Tasty

The problem with the word ‘tasty’ is that it really tells us nothing. All food, almost without exception, has a taste of something (anyone with an imagination can, therefore, describe it), so using this word, which has really come to mean that something tastes ‘good’, really gives us no detail at all. It’s a bit like saying something tastes ‘good’!

Alternatives: Absolutely any description of the food that reveals in detail why the taste is positive.

Spicy

The problem with this word is it is now used to mean something which is laden with chili, when in fact its connotation is that it is full of spices, which of course can include anything (and perhaps no chili whatsoever).

Alternatives: Why not actually mention the spices that are prevalent in the taste, or if it is full of chili, then say that. ‘Hot’ definitely doesn’t hit the mark either, because you could just as easily be talking about the temperature.

Delicious

This word is useless because not only is it subjective (something that is delicious for one person may absolutely not be for another) but it is now so ubiquitous that it has become practically meaningless.

Alternatives: Talk about the blend of flavors, and if it really is something that you would recommend, then be specific as to why.

Moist

Did you know that the word ‘moist’ is regularly voted as one of the most hated words in the English language? The problem is the sound of the word (for some people), and also the word’s connotation (for others). You see, it has become somewhat connected to bodily fluids.

It’s not really a bad word to use if truth be told. A cake that is soft and ‘liquidy’ really should be described as ‘moist’, but for this irrational dislike that people have for the word. It’s probably best avoided, which is a shame really because for accurate descriptions it really should be a winner.

Oh, and it’s synonym ‘soggy’ should never be used! Never.

Alternatives: juicy, rich with liquid.

Moorish

This invented word has come to mean something that entices you to eat (or drink) more. That can really be applied to so many things that it again becomes a redundant term. A synonym is addictive, but this word has too many negative connotations to be considered a worthy alternative too.

Alternatives: Enchanting, bewitching, beguiling.

Organic

Where do we even start with this word? Organic has become a buzzword for anything and everything that goes against the mass-produced norm, but the irony is that organic has become so prevalent that it itself has become mass-produced.

Of course, the principle is a good one. It is the right one. The problem really is that the word has become so ubiquitous on a vast range of products that we have lost sight of what it actually means.

Alternative: Talk specifically about the food journey involved with the product so readers get a real sense of where it came from

Foodie

A foodie has come to represent some sort of special class of people who really cares about food and understands it. But really, when you think about it, with a few exceptions, we are all foodies (not least because without it, we wouldn’t last very long). The problem with a foodie is that it is exclusive like it’s a club that not everyone can be a member of, and when it comes to food, that’s just not the case.

We all have foods that we are enthusiastic about, and we have our own way of preparing and enjoying the food that we eat. We are all foodies, so the word itself is really a redundant expression.

Alternatives: Chefs, professional cooks, or just avoid the term completely.

Yummy

This word is cute when you are five years old. Anything older and it is simply a bit immature and, a bit like ‘tasty’ and ‘delicious’, not really descriptive at all. Yummy (which has also found itself attached to the word ‘mummy’ in recent times to describe something else equally as poorly, not to mention in a way that is very un PC too) is juvenile and gives no real description to the food you are applying it too. So, find something else.

Alternatives: Again, absolutely any description of the food that reveals in detail why the taste is positive.

Nosh

This is an old slang word simply meaning ‘food’. The problem is that it makes food sound really unappetizing, so it really shouldn’t be used at all. It’s a lazy term that harks back to a time when people really didn’t put the time and effort into cooking that the activity deserves. Nosh is from a bygone age, therefore, and really needs to be replaced.

Alternatives: Cuisine, food, dish.

Gastro

Gastro is a shortened version of the very scientific-sounding word ‘gastronomy’, which means the preparation and enjoyment of food. But there are two problems with the word gastro. The first is that it sounds like some sort of medical problem. The second is that it is way too scientific and clinical for something that really should be much more passionate, heartfelt, natural and accessible. Plus, for many British people, in particular, it represents a craze that has somewhat seen the demise of the classic English pub: the dreaded gastro-pub. It’s either a restaurant or a pub. Make up your mind!

Alternatives: Again, what’s wrong with ‘food’? 

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