Dreyer’s Word Challenge

In the first chapter of Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer lists 12 words and phrases with the challenge “go a week without writing.”

  • very
  • rather
  • really
  • quite
  • in fact
  • just
  • so
  • pretty
  • of course
  • surely
  • that said
  • actually

I have already written an entry focused on actually. While the above list is useful, I will resist basing Needless Words entirely off of it.

The book in question

What I’ll note is that, after reading this list, I challenged our team at work to attempt this challenge for a week. It went well for some. Others could not handle it. We also added another three words to the list:

  • utilize
  • clearly
  • almost

Over time, this led me to a heightened awareness of words that fill and clutter. I became extra sensitive to my own writing. I spent longer on emails and started editing the work of others with more grit and less sympathy.

The challenge is still around, in one form or another. We reference it. I take note every time I see anyone use one of these words.

I ended up writing being inspired to write this paragraph:

It’s actually quite a rather difficult challenge. That said, I’m pretty sure we can almost stop utilizing these, of course, if we just try very hard. In fact, I can clearly really see the effects of trying so hard to adjust our writing habits.

Here is the same, without the needless words:

It’s a difficult challenge. I’m sure we can stop using these if we try hard. I can see the effects of adjusting our writing habits.

Note that utilize is the only word that had a purpose, but it became use in the new draft.

While I will not adhere to this list alone—as what’s the fun in that?—I can say that this challenge from Dreyer is part of what inspired me to start this blog. Now the question is, which needless word should I discuss next?

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