20 Overused Words in English Translations

April 24, 2023
20 Overused Words in English Translations

Writing skills represent the main factor when distinguishing superb translations from poor ones. Precise word choices that convey the author’s intended meaning always set the best authors apart from the rest. Unfortunately, many translators use words that are overused in English.

Your word choices can make or break your translation’s effectiveness. In the past, you may have leaned on overused words in English, causing you to mistranslate specific ideas and misrepresent the author’s intent. But you have gained a lot of experience since then.

Distancing yourself from common word choices allows you to become a better translator. A broader vocabulary gives you more options when translating tricky texts. Using a wide range of words gives you more credibility as a translator.

Read more: English words that can’t be translated

Writers and Commonly Overused Words

Even the best writers insert overused words into their work, including translators. Some of the most common reasons why translators write overused words include:

  • Absentmindedness

  • Crowd-pleasing

  • Writer’s block

  • Habit 

  • Lack of suitable alternative

Overused Adverbs

  1. Very

Using “very” as an adverb too often is an awfully bad habit.

If “very” doesn’t convey the intended meaning, try adverbs like absolutely, acutely, awfully, certainly, considerably, dearly, decidedly, deeply, emphatically, exceedingly, excessively, extraordinarily, extremely, greatly, highly, incredibly, largely, noticeably, particularly, profoundly, remarkably, or surprisingly.

Overused Nouns

  1. Things

Everything is a thing. People need to buy things, find things, share things, and prepare things.

Can we more precisely describe these things? Why not paint a clearer picture by calling them accessories, affairs, assets, baggage, bags, belongings, clothes, concerns, effects, equipment, experiences,  gear, goods, junk, objects, property, tools, or worries? 

Why use “things” in translation when you have better stuff available? Putting words that are overused in your writing diminishes its value.

Overused Adjectives

  1. Angry

The word “angry” is one of those words that are overused too much to convey the emotion behind it. Teachers display anger toward their students. A wife feels angry at her husband. And crime victims often express anger toward criminals. But none of them feel the same way.

When translating, what can you glean from your source text? Does the person feel angry, or more like annoyed, bitter, cross, displeased, enraged, fuming, furious, heated, incensed, indignant, infuriated, irate, irritated, livid, offended, outraged, resentful, riled, uptight?

By reading your source text carefully, you can make better word choices and transcend generality in favor of specificity. Otherwise, your readers will be miffed, maybe even peeved!

  1. Beautiful

Everything seems “beautiful” these days. You’ll find many beautiful scenes, beautiful beaches, beautiful cities, beautiful restaurants, and beautiful people!

But do you want your translation to read that way? Or could you describe beautiful things as alluring, appealing, bewitching, charming, dazzling, delightful, elegant, exquisite, gorgeous, graceful, lovely, magnificent, marvelous, pleasing, radiant, stunning, or sublime?

  1. Big

He’s a big guy. She has big feet. We climbed a big mountain. But can’t we find a better way to express bigness?

He can be humongous. She can have enormous feet. Maybe we climbed a gigantic mountain. You can insert several different alternatives to “big” when translating.

Words like colossal, considerable, extensive, hefty, mammoth, massive, monster, sizable, substantial, and tremendous can help you steer clear of overused words and make an immense, even gargantuan, improvement in your translation!

  1. Funny

Is something “funny,” or can we describe it as amusing, clever, entertaining, good-humored, hilarious, laughable, ridiculous, silly, whimsical, or witty? The word you choose creates an image in the reader’s mind.

Which word best conveys the author’s intent in the source text? Depending on your word choice, your translation will either regurgitate tired banalities or strike the reader’s funny bone in new ways.

  1. Good

Good deals, good people, good things, good lives, good movies, good songs, good books, and good food abound in today’s writing.

Try alternatives like decent, excellent, fantastic, first-rate, marvelous, outstanding, superb, superior, terrific, valuable, or worthwhile.

When you expand your vocabulary and stop using words that are overused, you’re investing in your career. Instead of relying on worn-out words, choose more fabulous terms to liven up your translation.

  1. Happy

Instead of “happy,” consider alternative words like blissful, cheerful, chipper, content, contented, ecstatic, elated, flying high, glad, jolly, joyful, joyous, jubilant, lively, merry, overjoyed, peaceful, perky, playful, pleasant, thrilled, tickled pink, or upbeat to spice up your translations.

Readers can only bear so many happy people, happy towns, happy campuses, and happy dolphins in the content they consume. Try to express happiness more specifically to advance the author’s intended meaning. Your readers will be delighted you did!

  1. Important

Life has important events, important meetings, important people, important locations, and important messages. But what about the events, meetings, people, locations, and messages that seem beyond important? If everything gets labeled “important,” your translation will lack urgency.

Depending on what you intend to describe, you might want to call it critical, crucial, decisive, essential, exceptional, far-reaching, grave, imperative, necessary, paramount, relevant, significant, urgent, or weighty. These alternatives will help you distinguish what’s really important.

  1. Interesting

“Interesting” is one of the safest, most boring words in English. It does not tell us much about how something piques the author’s interest, obscuring the intended meaning of the source text.

Words such as alluring, amusing, arresting, attractive, captivating, compelling, curious, delightful, enchanting, engaging, enthralling, entrancing, exotic, fascinating, gripping, impressive, intriguing, pleasing, provocative, refreshing, stimulating, striking, and thought-provoking clue us into why the author found an action, event, person, comment, or sound interesting.

Would you rather draft an interesting translation or a riveting one?

  1. Little

Your translation should not lean on “little” when you can insert diminutive, dinky, imperceptible, inappreciable, infinitesimal, insufficient, limited, meager, microscopic, mini, miniature, minute, petite, scant, short-lived, skimpy, slight, sparse, teeny-tiny, or undersized.

A little “little” here and there can add up to fuzzy, boring translations. Expand your Lilliputian vocabulary to impress and captivate your readers.

  1. New

We often encounter new people, new jobs, new restaurants, new windows, new cars, new discoveries, and new inventions.

Alternatives abound, like fresh, unused, fledgling, imaginative, inventive, modern, novel, original, or updated. Use the latest terminology to draft better translations.

  1. Nice

A big vocabulary is nice! But overusing this adjective is not. When describing people, authors may prefer you translate with more specific words like attractive, charming, cordial, delightful, gentle, gracious, kind, lovely, polite, or thoughtful.

If you avoid “nice,” your translations will seem more helpful and friendly to readers, and more considerate of the author’s intent.

  1. Sad

Why make yourself sad by overusing it in your translations? Instead, try bitter, blue, dejected, depressed, despairing, despondent, dismal, distressed, doleful, downcast, glum, grief-stricken, languishing, mournful, sorrowful, or troubled.

If you overuse “sad” in your translation, you’ll be sorry you did – maybe even heartbroken!

Overused Verbs

  1. Know

When a person understands something, we might say they know it. But we can also say someone cognizes, comprehends, discerns, fathoms, grasps, perceives, realizes, or recognizes it. 

With all these options, why do we write “know” so often? Perhaps some writers remain unacquainted with the alternatives. As a translator, do you merely know how to translate or grasp the finer details of professional translation?

  1. Like

Do you like someone? Or, would you more accurately say you admire, adore, savor, cherish, esteem, fancy, prize, or value them?

You can express “like” in many ways, but each way remains nuanced. So, using “like” may fail to give a precise impression. You don’t want to resort to common, tired words. You want your readers to appreciate the intricacies of the author’s writing.

  1. Said

True, news reporters have said a lot that turns out false. Talk show hosts say surprising things, and politicians say more than they should. But you should choose an alternative like announced, broadcasted, described, disclosed, divulged, expressed, narrated, noted, proclaimed, recited, recounted, or reported. Through your choice of words, the author’s intended message can be more accurately communicated.

Overused Determiners

  1. Many

We often see many people, many stores, many businesses, many props, many schools, many planes, and many cars. Spice up your translation with myriad, copious, diverse, numerous, plentiful, several, or umpteen. Your translations will improve, and countless readers will enjoy them.

  1. More

Many writers, including translators, use the comparative determiner “more” instead of adding “-er” when possible. For example, instead of “cleaner,” people sometimes say, “more clean.” As a result, they say more but convey less. The term becomes one of those words that are overused.

As a general rule, we add “-er” to words with one syllable. Cold becomes colder, hot becomes hotter, and big becomes bigger. However, exceptions exist. Funner, for example, does not fly. Instead of “more,” you can employ comparative adverbs like increasingly or frequently.

Less is more. By using relatively clear comparatives than “more,” you can add supplemental alternatives to your translations.

  1. Other

We read about other people, other kinds, other companies, and other ideas. But you have diverse alternatives available that may prove more descriptive and true to the author’s intent.

Try using additional, auxiliary, dissimilar, distinct, extra, fresh, further, spare, or various to enhance your translation.

How to Avoid Words That Are Overused

If you sometimes insert words that are overused into your writing, don’t feel bad. Everyone does it on occasion. Some of the things that you can do to avoid overused words include:

  • Compiling a list of the most overused words

  • Refusing to follow the latest language trends

  • Eliminating repetitiveness from your writing

  • Consulting a thesaurus without delay

Final Thoughts

By changing your writing to include less common, more precise words, you will express the author’s ideas with greater accuracy, giving you an edge over your fellow translators.

Read more: What a Travesty! The 5 Most Misused English Words

In your opinion, what are your least favorite words that are overused? Tell us in the comments below.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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