1. Thing- Find a word that communicates what you mean without using this generic filler.
2. That- If your sentence includes “that,” take it out and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does, take it out. If “that” is referring to a person, change it to “who.” (Example- “The person that called didn’t leave a message” should be “The person who called didn’t leave a message.”)
3. Many- Vague words like “many” or “few” aren’t clear enough. How many? How few? If you know the number, include it. Make your writing as precise as possible.
4. Most adverbs- Adverbs add to the meaning of verbs. But most of the time you can find a stronger verb that communicates your intent without the help of an adverb. “He whispered” is stronger than “He spoke quietly.” “She raced to class” is stronger than “She quickly ran to class.”
5. Any word you wouldn’t use in a real conversation– Your readers want to read your story in your voice. Be genuine.
Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose. -William Zinsser in On Writing Well