Sneaky Word Eliminator

1. Junk Words and Phrases

Most people empty words and phrases into their writing without realizing it. These add nothing, and make the writing less clear. Go on a hunt for junk words and phrases.

Common words that can be cut without making a difference include


  • However
  • Anyway
  • So
  • Then
  • That
  • Because
  • Very
  • Really
  • (Would) always
  • Meanwhile
  • About
  • Even



Phrases that usually add nothing:

  • I think/believe that
  • As it were
  • In any case
  • From my perspective
  • I decided to
  • I remembered
  • One time/there was a time when
  • The reason that/why
  • I will always cherish the memories of

Look at each word and phrase in your essay. There probably are some (maybe many) that can be taken out without changing the meaning at all. These are just samples.

We aren’t saying never use these words and phrases; be intentional if you do. In the future, you’ll start to use these less and less.

Practice Paragraph:

What junk words or phrases can you take out of the paragraph?

A year before I had any idea that my journey would lead me to Guatemala, I took part in a seemingly innocent rafting trip down Idaho’s Snake River with my Boy Scout troop. Idaho at the time seemed very foreign to a kid from the Seattle suburbs. In my unending goal to carry as little weight as possible on outings with my troop I decided to live and pack by a saying I had come up with. The more experience I have, the less stuff I need to bring. My normal mess kit had just two items, a big plastic mug and a cheap plastic spoon. With a spoon and a cup you can do it all. The first morning of the trip the guides made us breakfast, the whole time assuring us that they would never cook for us again. After a quick glance at breakfast no one was that upset. It was awful oatmeal. But that’s the outdoorsman’s life, so I swallowed my culinary pride and went to grab my spoon and cup. Something quickly became obvious: my faithful spoon was nowhere to be found.


2. The Dreaded “College Essay” Phrases

There are a handful of tired phrases that show up in college essays. Do not use these. Some common offenders are:

  • If ____ had not happened, I would not be the person I am today/who I am today.
  • This experience gave me the confidence to ______.
  • I learned that if I persevere, I can accomplish anything.
  • ____ has had a profound influence on my life.

Avoid these and others like them!

Practice Paragraph:

What are the “College Essay Phrases” in this paragraph?

For the past seven summers of my life I have spent a week or more at a summer camp in the San Juan Islands, YMCA Camp Orkila. Five of those summers were spent as a traditional camper, playing games in the forest, or other things one might expect from a summer camp. Looking back on my time spent there, I can say with certainty that I would not be the person I am today without that camp. Over the years my counselors taught me valuable life skills, most importantly how to be confident in my actions, a lesson I have always carried closely with me. It was because of these valuable lessons and their impact on my life, that I decided I would take the next step, and become a counselor at my summer camp.





3. Adjectives and Adverbs


Adjectives and adverbs are overused. They can make your essay less readable, and can reduce the power of your writing. Sometimes, writers use so many adjectives and adverbs that they overwhelm the reader.

Go through your essay and challenge each adjective and adverb. They are important parts of speech, and you’ll have some. Be sure you don’t have too many.



Now, here’s that same advice, with extra adverbs and adjectives. What’s the difference?


Highly overrated!

Adjectives and adverbs are badly and frequently overused. They can make your critical essay less readable, and can greatly reduce the inspiring power of your well-thought-out words. Sometimes, young or inexperienced writers use so many misplaced adjectives and inappropriate adverbs that they totally overwhelm the unsuspecting reader.

Carefully and repeatedly go through your entire essay and vigorously challenge each questionable adjective and sketchy adverb. They are incredibly important parts of everyday speech, and you’ll undoubtedly have some. Be absolutely, positively sure you don’t have too, too many.


The clean version is 61 words. The version with adjectives and adverbs is 89 words and difficult to read.