Little Book of Confusables

Four words to cut from your writing to instantly improve your impact

Want your writing to have more impact? Cut these four words 

Just as we pepper our speech with filler words like UM, LIKE, SO, and BASICALLY, we do the same with our writing – often without even realising.

Here are four words to cut from your writing to improve impact and clarity.


These are called qualifiers. They may feel like they’re strengthening your message, but they usually have the opposite effect.

Avoid using two words where you can use one.

Try swapping:




You get the picture.

This quote from Dead Poets’ Society sums it up nicely. “Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose.”

If you can’t think of a stronger word, take out VERY or REALLY.


Tune into this one and you’ll be amazed how often you use it. It’s often particularly prevalent in emails:

❌ “I’m JUST checking to see how you got on with my quote.”

✅ “I’m checking to see how you got on with my quote.”

❌ “I’ll JUST leave it with you.”

✅ “I’ll leave it with you.”

❌ “JUST let me know what you think.”

✅ “Let me know what you think.”

Ditch it. You’ll instantly sound more confident.

Finally, THAT – a filler word that’s often unnecessary.

If the sentence makes sense without the word THAT, delete it.

❌ “I checked THAT the document was approved.”

✅ “I checked the document was approved.”

❌ “She told me THAT it was great.”

✅ “She told me it was great.”

❌ “The website copy THAT you wrote for me.”

✅ “The website copy you wrote for me.”

Which of these are you guilty of?

Photograph of The Little Book of Confusables: simple spelling tips to help smart people avoid stupid mistakes. Written by Sarah Townsend

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