3 Horrifically Bland Words (and Alternatives to Add Some Flavor)

Some rights reserved by Sociotard

by Gabbi Hall

Writing is like cooking; you need the right ingredients to be successful. Think of the age-old metaphor: “That’s the cherry on top.” Using descriptive words in your story equates to adding the perfect toppings to your sundae or the final strokes to a painting. The right words will help you better develop your character or scene.

1. Stuff (noun) – matter, material, articles, or activities of a specified or indeterminate kind that are being referred to, indicated, or implied.
Ex: The kitchen was a mess with stuff thrown about. 

“Stuff” is a vague, non-descriptive word. It does not help the reader visualize the story. Here are some possible alternatives:

Paraphernalia – miscellaneous articles, esp. the equipment needed for a particular activity
Ex: The kitchen was a mess with baking paraphernalia thrown about.

Effects– personal belongings.
Ex: Susan wildly threw her effects across the room.


2. Good (adjective) – to be desired or approved of.
Ex: The sundae was good.

What are you really saying when you say something is good? Did the good sundae tingle your taste buds or did you simply swallow it to underwhelming effect? Tell your readers just how “good” that sundae was.

Meritorious – deserving reward or praise.
Ex: The football team made a meritorious effort even though they lost the game.

Laudable – (of an action, idea, or goal) deserving praise and commendation.
Ex: The chef prepared a laudable meal of spaghetti and meatballs.


3. Big (adjective) – of considerable size, extent, or intensity.
Ex: The big house was on a hill.

Big is relative. When someone explains that an event is a “big deal,” the actually importance of that event is subjective. If someone says they ate a big sundae, it may have been just a scoop of ice cream. Give your readers more with one these words:

Prodigious – remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree.
Ex: The house was of prodigious dimensions and sat on a colossal piece of land.

Grandiose – impressive or magnificent in appearance or style, esp. pretentiously so.
Ex: The princess’ grandiose wedding gown made her look like a cupcake.

Which bland words do you work to avoid in your writing?