We all use crutch words. They help us fill the gap in a conversation or speech when we’re unsure of how to proceed, or haven’t quite thought out the best way to position something. Niti Shah
(←that's the most common, overused crutch word in the English language)
We slip our crutch words into our writing to give us time to think what we want to say. English boasts a preponderance of crutch words. But I’ll give you my two cents on the most egregious ones. All websites I researched listed “actually” as the single most egregious, overused crutch word.
Other killer crutch words include: literally, basically, really, very, totally and just.
Crutch words are meaningless, wasted words that slip into our writing. Crutch words don’t add value, clarification or meaning to our sentences. Adverbs are the worst crutch words. If we can use a robust action verb we don’t need crutch words..
For example: Sam was literally exhausted after running the 5K race. In this sentence we don’t need to say he was “literally” exhausted. Who out there doesn’t know what exhausted means? Exhausted means exhausted. “Literally” does nothing but take up space. It’s a crutch word.
My most often used crutch word is “really“. I have others as well. But “literally” takes up lots of space in my writing. I’m working on using more robust, action-packed verbs. Fighting crutch words is a constant battle for me.
My writing teacher in college told me an easy way to clean up my writing during an editing pass is to delete all the words that end in “ly”. Seriously? Most words ending in “ly” are adverbs anyway. If we write a robust, dynamic verb in our sentence we don’t have to add anything to it.
For more discussion and a list of crutch words you might be using click here.