One adjective I always delete when I'm editing copy
And 101 words I use instead
There's one word I always delete when I'm editing copy.
It's overused. It's filler. It doesn't add detail. It saps energy from copy.
So why does it get used so much?
It's a jack of all trades. It's catch-all. It fills a gap when you just know you need to add an adjective.
What's the word?
Stylish? Surely, it's not so bad?
Well, imagine I wrote:
Complete your autumn wardrobe with a stylish dress.
Does that help you visualise the dress? Is it long or short? What colour is it? Does it have killer shoulder pads or demure polka dots? And more importantly, do you want to buy it?
So, let's delete 'stylish'. We still need to describe that dress. And we're left with that pesky gap. That gap where you know an adjective needs to go.
So, what do I use instead?
Here's 101 alternatives.
Let's start simple, can you describe the shape?
Slip, waist-cinching, oversized, structured, tailored
Midi, micro, maxi
Colours or prints?
Day-glo, jewel-toned, over-saturated, fluoro, muted
What about a finish?
Draped, high-shine, sequinned
What's it made from?
Cashmere, velvet, leather
Or pick a detail, any detail:
Slogan, embellished, ruffled, printed, pleated, cut-out, puffed-sleeved
That's 26. So far, a bit expected. Let's get a bit more imaginative.
Can you sell a benefit?
Effortless, flattering, key, versatile, easy-to-wear, one-and-done, mix-and-match, work-appropriate, cosy, lightweight, your-new-go-to, trans-seasonal, day-to-night, less-is-more, wardrobe-hero
Does it nod to a trend?
Power-shouldered, preppy, gothic, Victoriana, mod, punk, romantic, off-duty, vintage, prairie, athleisure
1970s-disco, 1990s-androgynous, 1980s-throwback
What's influenced the design?
Red carpet, haute couture-inspired, street wear
A type of clothing?
Utilitarian, workwear-influenced, sportswear
What about a place?
Italian-inspired, Japanese-influenced, Parisian cool
A cultural reference?
Worthy-of-a-Wes-Anderson-moodboard, film-noir, pop-art colour blocked
What if the dress had a personality?
Fun, irreverent, playful, ladylike, relaxed, refined, grown-up, cool, daring, joyful, edgy, dramatic, sporty, bold
Just because you can't use 'stylish', doesn't mean you can't reference the style:
Maximalist, minimalist, elegant, chic, boho, functional, low-key, laid-back, high-impact, high-octane, simple, gamine, polished, pared-back, sleek, luxe, statement, understated, timeless, heritage
And if you're still struggling to describe the look, can you say something else entirely?
Bestselling, sustainable, perennial-favourite, covetable, most-wanted, ultimate, iconic, much-imitated, famed, unmistakeable, It-dress, hardworking.
For me, it's important that every word justifies its place in a piece of writing. It needs to create a mental image. It needs to add energy and detail. It needs to build the brand voice and the brand's authority.
And if it doesn't, it's not the right word for that gap.