• Storytelling That Sells

Greater Than ‘Great’

You can do better than this bland, dull modifier

Of all the useless modifiers, “great” is one of the most useless. It just lies there, squatting on a perfectly good noun, claiming to enhance our understanding of the noun but only dragging it down.

“What a great idea!”

“It’s a great way to [fill in the blank]!”

“It’s a great deal!”

“Great” adds nothing meaningful to those sentences, other than the vague sense that something good is happening. And if you have any doubt, the exclamation point will goose the sentence for you.

“Great” is to adjectives as “very” is to adverbs. It’s bland and dull, usually tossed in when the writer can’t think of anything better to say. It makes your writing flabby and slow.

How do you shape up and find more effective words?

3 simple ways to get rid of ‘great’

1. Use a modifier that directly relates to the noun it’s defining.

Instead of “great savings” on jewelry or liquor,” try “sparkling” or “spirited” savings.

Turn “great aroma” into “mouthwatering aroma.”

Go from “great advice” to “useful,” “helpful” or “expert” advice.

2. Get specific.

What’s great about that great idea? Take a few extra words to say what, specifically, appeals to you.

3. Use a thesaurus.

That’s right – I said it. Many writing advisers look down on the thesaurus as a weak substitute for on-point vocabulary, but I say use all the tools you can find. Just think carefully before using its suggestions. You can end up with some pretentious alternatives or choices that are no better than “great.”

Your takeaway

Empty modifiers aren’t the worst offense; they’re not even wrong, really, just lazy. They’re good enough for quick communication like email and text, or for personal messages – when what you’re saying matters more than how you say it. Go ahead and tell someone they did a great job or thank them for throwing a great party.

But when you’re writing professional content, for a client or your own work, it’s time for something greater than “great.”