In 1997, when I was first hired at New York magazine, Kurt Andersen, now a best-selling novelist and radio-show host, had just been fired as editor. Everybody was grieving about this, though not me, since I wouldn’t have had a job there otherwise. And though it wasn’t until years later that I even met Kurt, he unwittingly left me a gift: tacked to the bulletin board in the office I took over was a single page titled “Words We Don’t Say.” It contained, as you might surmise, words and phrases that Kurt found annoying and didn’t want used in his magazine. Just yesterday, I rescued it from a bunch of old office stuff that I was throwing out, and I have to say, 14 years later, it’s still a pretty useful list of phony-baloney vocabulary that editors are well-advised to excise from stories.
I think I need one of these. There are many, many words I use far too often in my writing (I type "splendid" at least a dozen times a day), and tired, tabloidy phrases that get repeated over and over. There's a fine line between having a distinctive voice and having a hackneyed one. It's important to constantly exercise one's vocabulary muscle.