Stop Using “Cadaver Words”

These Lifeless Phrases Bore Your Reader

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Does your writing have “Cadaver Words”?

I hope not…

Cadaver Words mar good ideas and butcher great writing. They are as lifeless as a limp corpse. They hollow out promising prose. And erect steel walls between your work and your reader.

Use them at your own risk.

What are these dreaded words?

Cadaver words come in many shapes and sizes, but they share two qualities. They are vague and emotionless.

Think weak adjectives like: nice, good, and happy.

Nondescript verbs like: walk, stop, and think.

Dull drum nouns like: car, house, and cat.

For the writer Cadaver Words are tantalizingly convenient. You can deploy them in thousands of situations. They may be boring, but boy are they useful!

But for the audience they are a subtle form of cruelty. Remember, your precious reader is on your side. They want your words to shake them. Suck them in. Transport them to a time and place far away. Boring them is a betrayal of their trust.

How can you avoid Cadaver Words?

Specific, descriptive language is the arch enemy of the Cadaver Word.

Think of it like this:

Your audience doesn’t care that:

“Mr. Robinson’s nice car stopped on the busy street.”

But they’re intrigued when:

“Mr. Robinson’s jet black Maserati skid to a halt at the corner of 5th Avenue”.

The first example is too vague to excite. Phrases like “nice car” and “busy street” aren’t specific. They don’t immerse your reader in the scene.

However, “the jet black Maserati skidding to a halt” puts them in the middle of the action. It mentions clear images your audience recognizes. Ones their mind can use to sketch a mental picture of what’s happening.

Our job as writers is to bring ideas to life with words. To give them a pulse on page and in the audience’s mind. This act of animation requires precise active language.

So ditch those lifeless Cadaver words. Corpses belong in graveyards, not in your writing.