Ten Words to Ban From Your Classroom

12 Feb

No, I’m not talking about the words you think I am. I’m talking about dead words: an insidious breed of words that encourage lazy thinking and lazy writing. Banning these words from your classroom will have an immediate, significant effect on the creativity, originality, and specificity of your students’ writing.

The Origin of Dead Words

Once upon a time, there was a race of beautiful words, as beautiful as fairy tale princesses in golden ball gowns. These words—words like love and amazing and awesome—were so gorgeous and important that people brought them out on only very special occasions. Because they were used only every once in a while, they were able to stay shining and new year-round. Whenever they appeared, everyone was so moved that they stopped and stared. But then, some people got lazy and said to themselves, “Well, if these words are so gorgeous and important, why don’t we use them all the time? Then everything will be more beautiful!” And so, rather than saving these words for special days, they started asking these words to come out every day. First, they asked the words to give political speeches, and later they started asking them to answer phones at receptionist desks, and before you know it, they were making these words take out the garbage and pick up dog poop. The words, who were once so beautiful, became tired and old, and their clothes turned to rags. But still, the people weren’t satisfied. They kept demanding that the words be beautiful all the time, and when they couldn’t be, the people punched them in the face and told them to work harder. The more people used them, the more these words got beaten up and exhausted, until they finally just dropped dead. All their meaning was gone. But still, even after they died, people kept propping them up and trying to make them do work, hoping that they would be meaningful once more. Instead of doing any good, though, their corpses just flopped around and stunk up the place. To this day, when you use these words, it has the same effect on your writing as shoving a putrid, rotting body between your punctuation marks.

The Deadest of Dead Words:

  • Beautiful (or “pretty” or “cute”)
  • Nice
  • Good
  • Bad (or “horrible” or “awful” or “terrible”)
  • Stupid
  • Fine
  • Great
  • Special
  • Unique
  • Cool (or other slang variations on this theme)

What To Use Instead:

In banning these words from your classroom, you will force your students to think about what they really want to say, rather than just writing down the first vague thing that pops into their heads. Be warned, though–the point of this exercise is not to encourage students to use more high-falutin’ synonyms (“gorgeous” instead of “beautiful,” for example) but, rather, to teach them to use specific details to show you what they mean (like,”each blink of her eye was like a little sunset”). Check out The Cure for IDK for fun lessons that banish dead words and teach your students to use specific details instead.

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One Response to “Ten Words to Ban From Your Classroom”

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  1. Why Farts, Zits, and Slobber Are Good for Your Classroom | That Writing Lady - April 2, 2012

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