Amazing, My Dear Watson

The word amazing is way, way overused these days. She’s an amazing mother. That movie was amazing. It’s amazing that you can get up and do that every day. That clothing store is amazing. (A clothing store? Really? These are examples ripped from Your Editor’s own life and I assure you a clothing store is not amazing. Okay, maybe if it’s on the Champs-Élysées.)

I see it in fiction, I see it in nonfiction; written by inexperienced authors and by those who should know better. I see it so often there are times I think: If I read the word amazing one more time, I’m going to break something.

Please help me keep my household goods intact, kids.

It’s fine with me if I see the word in fictional dialogue, because that’s how folks talk. (Clichés are okay in fictional conversation for this same reason.) Dialogue should reflect how real people sound.

Nonetheless, I’ll be paying close attention to how many times you use it. Because as your editor my personal feeling is the use of amazing should be reserved for descriptions of circus stunts. Just sayin’.

Perhaps, instead of amazing, you meant that two hundred-year-old pipe organ in the big Episcopal church downtown is, oh … magnificent. Perhaps it’s impressive. Other possibilities: grand, splendid, majestic, superb, glorious … Maybe you mean it is both grand and historically important.

You see, we have no shortage of suitable substitutes.

I just want to encourage you to make vocabulary work for you, rather than falling back on a word that loses its effectiveness with each passing day. Amazing tells me nothing, since it’s been used to describe everything.

Tweet: Amazing should be reserved for descriptions of circus stunts.
Tweet: Amazing, My Dear Watson! Stop using this word, please.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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8 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    And lest we forget, “totally” and “absolutely.” Taylor Mali feels your pain, and so do I.

  2. Jamie says:

    I’m already working on another post in that vein. :) Epic.

  3. jenny says:

    GRRROOOOOAAAAAANNNNN! Why couldn’t I have read this before?! Damn my non-blog-keeping-up self! You have been tallying me, haven’t you?! I use it constantly. Sigh. Ok, keep feeding me synonyms and I’ll work on it. Sheesh. You’re superb, Jamie. That’s why I love you.

  4. […] the love of the lexicon, stop!” Take these, for example. (Please.) I’m over them. actionable amazing (I’ve written about this one.) baby mama bandwith (“Does he have the bandwidth to take that on?”) brain dump (Seriously?) […]

  5. […] are words like so and well used at the beginning of sentences of dialogue. Often it’s amazing (and you know how I feel about that!). Smirk shows up a lot too. Recently a manuscript I worked on had dialogue littered with you and I […]

  6. […] written a book. It’s about his recovery from cancer. His friends and family think it’s an amazing book and should be published. He wants me to say the same thing. Instead I say: “Is it unusual, […]

  7. Barbie says:

    awesome is also way over used.

  8. […] because our amateur reporter doesn’t understand how that works, apparently). I’ll save my rant about the inappropriate use of the word amazing for another […]

  9. Anglo says:

    This post is …informative! delightful! humorous!

    I overuse awesome and amazing. They are like a pair of annoying fraternal twins who stalk my writing.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  10. […] A couple weeks ago I was having a Twitter conversation with an editor at St. Martin’s Press, who was remarking about the overuse of the word amazing. One of her authors was swearing it off and tweeting about it. Ha! I said. This has been my personal bête noire for years. (Don’t believe me? I’ve written about it before.) […]

  11. […] one about word use gets a lot of attention, as does this one. I’ve also had little rants about amazing and smirk, about pronoun abuse, and many […]

  12. […] more than a year, which I’d say is a pretty good market sample. What did she learn? Look past the amazings to the good […]

  13. […] (unless you’re writing fictional dialogue for young teens, in which instance go for it). In fact, I’m on record when it comes to the use of amazing, the patron saint of hyperbole, which is so overused as to be […]

8 Trackbacks

  1. By I’m Over It! (These Words Have Got to Go) on 22 March, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    […] the love of the lexicon, stop!” Take these, for example. (Please.) I’m over them. actionable amazing (I’ve written about this one.) baby mama bandwith (“Does he have the bandwidth to take that on?”) brain dump (Seriously?) […]

  2. […] are words like so and well used at the beginning of sentences of dialogue. Often it’s amazing (and you know how I feel about that!). Smirk shows up a lot too. Recently a manuscript I worked on had dialogue littered with you and I […]

  3. By Oh God, Thy Sea Is So Great and My Boat Is So Small on 2 August, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    […] written a book. It’s about his recovery from cancer. His friends and family think it’s an amazing book and should be published. He wants me to say the same thing. Instead I say: “Is it unusual, […]

  4. By Everybody Needs an Editor, Part Two on 30 November, 2012 at 8:19 am

    […] because our amateur reporter doesn’t understand how that works, apparently). I’ll save my rant about the inappropriate use of the word amazing for another […]

  5. By 99 Words for Amazing on the Wall … on 21 November, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    […] A couple weeks ago I was having a Twitter conversation with an editor at St. Martin’s Press, who was remarking about the overuse of the word amazing. One of her authors was swearing it off and tweeting about it. Ha! I said. This has been my personal bête noire for years. (Don’t believe me? I’ve written about it before.) […]

  6. By Short Saturday: A Literary Agent Rants a Little on 14 December, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    […] one about word use gets a lot of attention, as does this one. I’ve also had little rants about amazing and smirk, about pronoun abuse, and many […]

  7. By Short Saturday: Evaluating Self-Published Authors on 19 April, 2014 at 7:17 am

    […] more than a year, which I’d say is a pretty good market sample. What did she learn? Look past the amazings to the good […]

  8. By Short Saturday: Yes. This. (Hyperbole.) on 12 December, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    […] (unless you’re writing fictional dialogue for young teens, in which instance go for it). In fact, I’m on record when it comes to the use of amazing, the patron saint of hyperbole, which is so overused as to be […]