Writing: My Hit List

(The word cloud used as the image for this post was generated from my sci-fi short story Dissolution, which you can read here.)

Every writer has a list of words or phrases they hate. This post contains my personal list of 63 phrases I avoid because I feel they weaken my writing. I am no expert, so don’t take this post as gospel. Nevertheless, this list has helped me, so I thought I would share it. I have compiled this list over the past few years based on personal preferences, plus feedback from editors, beta readers, and fellow writers. Note, I primarily use this list when writing and editing fiction.

To avoid repetition, I grouped similar phrases together in the table below. I then gave each phrase a rating:

  • Black: Total ban. I will rework the sentence to remove these phrases 100% of the time.
  • Red: Avoid whenever possible. I will do my best to remove these phrases, but if there is a good reason for them to stay, so be it.
  • Amber: Beware. I will check to see if my use of these phrases indicates a weak sentence.

I have included a comment beside each item explaining its inclusion on the list.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments. Continue reading Writing: My Hit List

Writing: Dissolution, a short story

I wrote this science fiction story, titled “Dissolution”, last year. It was published in the multi-genre anthology Anything Goes: Volume 1. The anthology, which contains twenty-one stories including this one, is available to buy in print or ebook here. Dissolution is set in the same near(ish) future setting as a book I’m currently working on. Let me know what you think of the story in the comments.


Dr Ada Low thrust her hand across the desk, killing the power to her computer monitors, turning the screens black.

Mercifully black.

She slumped backwards into her chair. A heavy exhale, almost a groan, burst from her lips. Her fingers itched to rip the memory card from the computer and hurl it out the window.

“I could hurl myself out afterwards,” she laughed, a bit too loudly. She covered her mouth to silence herself. I must be in shock. Her reflection stared back at her from the darkened monitors; her face a sickly shade of grey, drops of sweat beading on her forehead.

Pulling open her bottom drawer, Ada rifled towards the back until her shaking fingers grasped the small packet she desperately needed. Ten minutes later she was on her third cigarette, the first three she had smoked in… is it five years since I quit?

The cigarettes tasted horrible, stale after years waiting at the bottom of her desk. But the smoke still coiled smoothly into her lungs. It was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen in years, yet the conversation flows like it was yesterday. The smoke tickled her bloodstream with nicotine, pumping the stimulant up into her brain. There, it made itself at home, triggering a familiar flood of neurotransmitters and hormones. A cosy chemical soup, telling Ada that everything would be okay.

Her nerves calmed, she reached back across her desk and flicked the power button.

The screens lit up, filling Ada’s vision with nightmares.  Continue reading Writing: Dissolution, a short story