THE BLOG
07/31/2007 01:23 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The 10 Most Common Words You "Should" Stop Using Now

Words are thoughts.

The better we choose our words, the more we hone our thinking machine, and just like software, it's a case of GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Thinking hard is pointless if we don't use the right tools.

Think and speak with precision. Less is often more. Here are 10 common words I have observed to cause stress, depression, and conflict due to their vagueness. All of them are overused to the point of being meaningless. The solution? Stop using them and find more descriptive alternatives. I recommend focusing on removing one or two each week, even if just as an exercise.

In no particular order...

1. Happiness
2. Success
3. Should
4. Responsible
5. Realistic
6. Reasonable
7. Spiritual
8. Good/Right
9. Bad/Wrong
10. Moral

Do you love some of these? Most of us do. But... try and define them without using an equally vague synonym or a tautology.

But why do we love them?

Because they remove the heavy lifting of real thinking. These socially-accepted throwaway terms are crutches for unclear thinking, just like "thing," "stuff," or "interesting" -- enemies of good writers worldwide. But the above 10 are much more dangerous, as they encourage us to compare, judge, or fool ourselves and others.

Trim the fat and cultivate your thinking with more creative and expressive word choice. As Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, "The limits of my language are the limits of my world."

Timothy Ferriss is author of the #1 Wall Street Journal and NY Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.