No More Narrative

By Matt Groening

At a writing workshop years ago, the instructor provided a list of words to avoid. The list was lengthy and I remember just one: lavender

I loved lavender. The plant, the smell, the emotional elegance of its earthiness. I wanted to ladle lavender into every poem. 

But she was right. Lavender is too expected. Lavender is overused. As much as I adore lavender — the plant and the word — I left it for better, less expected, words. 


Remember when green was used in every-other-sentence as a signifier for good and environmental, and then was replaced with sustainable. And then we suffered a cliche hangover and spoke in plain language that said what we meant?

Okay that last part didn't happen. We may have momentarily come to our senses, only to replace story with narrative and talk with dialogue (it's not a verb!). 

Here's a tip: Using bigger words doesn't work; it just makes you bloated and big-headed. It doesn't make you deep or thoughtful or smart. (I'm looking at you Krista Tippet). 

Just talk to me. In plain language. If you really want to conversate (yuck), just talk — directly in plain, easy language. 


In the spirit of saving us from ourselves, I offer an updated list of words to avoid, in writing and in life: 





agreeance  (the word is agreement; don't try to fancy it up)

muse/musings  (unless you're 12 years old and writing with a pink pen)


moonlight (due to overuse the moon is no longer poetic)



What's on your list?



I miss Matt Groening's Forbidden Words. We need an update!