The Evening Leader

Thoughts with Tim: Banning the use of the word “literally”

- Tim Benjamin pastortim

I am not sure how much authority comes from writing columns in The Evening Leader, but whatever authority it brings, I am going to flex it to ban the use of a single English word. This word has become a pet peeve of mine, and I hate it because I have caught myself starting to use it. It is the most pointless word and we all throw it around in order to give whatever we are saying added weight.

So, from this point forward, I am banning the use of this obnoxious word. What is the word that you are no longer allowed to use? Literally.

For the love of God, can we stop using the word literally? I was listening to a woman being interviewe­d the other day and she said the word literally so many times that I could not follow what she was trying to say. Apparently, we take everything super literally in our world today because that is the word everyone keeps saying. But not anymore. I am banning all use of the word literally from this point forward.

Webster’s dictionary defines the word literally as, “a word used to emphasize the truth or accuracy of a statement or descriptio­n.” OK, so if you tell me 27 times in the course of your statement that you are “emphasizin­g the truth and accuracy of your statement” then it has to be true? How honest does it sound when you have to assure someone that you are telling the truth every other sentence? That doesn’t give you more credibilit­y, it gives you less. By using the word literally in every sentence, you are not only sounding very non-believable, but you are also very irritating.

One of the funniest examples of this I saw was in a video clip I tried to look up for the writing of this article, but I could not find. It makes me wonder if the video clip was deleted. In it, some college kid was protesting something. I don’t even remember what it was. He was screaming that the protest was against “literally Hitler.” When someone asked the kid what was Hitler’s first name. The kid responded literally. He thought Hitler’s first name was literally. I know that using the word literally usually means “emphasizin­g the truth and accuracy of your statement” but I think that in this scenario, literally nothing was going to save his argument.

This is the problem; the word literally has become a buzzword. We say it as a placeholde­r, and it needs to stop. One of the first lessons they teach you when it comes to persuasive writing or speaking is to get rid of as many extra words as possible. Get to the point of what you are saying. Adding in a whole bunch of nonsense words creates a fog that the person you are trying to convince has to fight past. I can promise you, 99% of people will give up if they feel you are doing nothing but wasting their time.

Here is a good rule to live by when you are trying to write or say something of substance: Never use a page when a paragraph would be enough, never use a paragraph when a sentence would be enough, and never use a sentence when a word would be enough. More clarity comes from a few meaningful words than a whole plate of word salad that no one understand­s.

That is why overused words like literally needs to be banned for all time. We appreciate all of the times when the word literally was valuable, but it has overstayed its welcome and now we need to stop using the word altogether. Just tell the truth, be honest in your interactio­ns, and always strive for clarity with the fewest possible words. The people listening to you will thank you and you will become a much more persuasive and influentia­l person by cutting unnecessar­y words from your vocabulary.

Canceling overused words is a free service provided by yours truly to help you live your best life. Communicat­ion is one of the best parts of being a human being, and we do our fellow humans a favor when we work to perfect our communicat­ion skills. The people you talk to will literally thank you for not abusing the English language.

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