“Crutch words” are comfortable, go-to words that creep into our speech and writing, often without us realizing it. Over time we come to depend on these words, believing that they are necessary to construct well-written sentences. However, the opposite is usually true. Most crutch words don’t add anything to a sentence. Some can even have the opposite effect of what you intend. The following crutch words are often used by native speakers. Be careful that they won’t slip into your own writing.
Really, quite, and other “intensifiers” are deceptively-named. Either the intensifier is unnecessary or there is a more precise way to express the same idea:
It is really cold outside.
Cold is cold, so the “really” here is redundant. If you want to express a severe degree of cold, use a word that means exactly that:
It is freezing outside.
“Due to the fact that” and “The reason why is because”
These long-winded phrases are the same as saying “because because.” While “due to” can be used after a linking verb, it is acceptable only in that role. When in doubt, use a single “because.”
Empty phrases are a type of verbal padding that adds nothing but problems to your sentences. “According to some, some people believe, it is often said, and experts say” imply questions that the sentences following them cannot answer. According to whom? What people? Who says it? What experts? “I believe, I feel, I think, and it is my opinion” make you sound unsure of your position and weaken persuasive writing. Directly state what you believe, without introducing it as such.
Each and Every
Each of these words is fine on its own, but you only need one. Using both is redundant.
Things and Stuff
These words are fine for casual speech but too imprecise for formal speech and writing. When writing for business, spell out what the “thing” or “stuff” is instead.
“Got” is another informal crutch word that you should avoid in business writing:
You have got to finish the report the report by Tuesday.
Use an imperative in place of the “got” phrase, or remove the introductory phrase altogether:
You must finish the report by Tuesday.
Finish the report by Tuesday.
Native speakers tend to misuse “literally,” often invoking it when they mean “figuratively” or “practically.” In general, “literally” is a word that you will rarely need to use. First, it is redundant when used correctly:
Jane’s car is literally red.
Jane’s car is red.
Second, using it incorrectly can make you seem uneducated:
Ben’s workspace is literally a disaster area. (This is not literally true.)
Here better ways to express how messy Ben’s workspace is:
Ben’s workspace is a disaster area. (The figurative use is clear from the context.)
Ben’s workspace is a mess. (Sidesteps the “literally” issue but is less descriptive.)
Soda cans, snack wrappers, and old reports litter Ben’s desk. (Describes in what way Ben’s workspace is a “disaster area.”)
Absolutely and Positively
In most circumstances, the adverbs “absolutely” and “positively” are redundant. Consider the following example:
The English Island offers absolutely the best English classes in Atlanta.
This sentence already has a superlative (“best”). Placing “absolutely” before “best” is the same as writing “best best.” This endorsement of our English services is stronger without the adverb:
The English Island offers the best English classes in Atlanta.
“Hopefully” and other qualifiers imply a lack of control over or a lack of confidence in the outcome of a situation. Don’t “hope” for what needs to happen; state what needs to be done.