Note: I will revisit this post from time to time as I think of new ones (i.e., come across them in my own writing).
very--A strange word in that it does the opposite of what you think it does. You think it amplifies or emphasizes, but it actually diminishes.
Dr. Brown's new car was very shiny, very sleek, and very fast.
Dr. Brown's new car was shiny, sleek, and fast.
See? All those verys slow the reader down. Take the advice of Depeche Mode: Very is very unnecessary; it can only do harm.
begin to, start to--Normally, people don't begin to do something, they just do it.
The wolf approached me, drooling and snarling. I turned and
just--This is a problematic one for me. Nothing wrong with the word, I just seem to use it once or twice a page when I write. I think I just don't realize I'm putting it in. I just have to use the word search when I'm done and I can eliminate three-quarters of the justs.
saw, look--Nothing wrong with these words. They're good, solid words that will appear many times in your writing. However, they can be a little boring. See if you can't replace a few of them with eye, focus, gape, gaze, glance, observe, ogle, regard, scan, spy, view, watch, etc. Don't take this too far though--the goal isn't to bedeck your manuscript like a royal crown! A little goes a long way.
actually--Thanks to Dana for a link to a similar post! From that I got the idea for actually. I checked my own WiP with this and found 8 actuallys. Four could be crossed out without changing or harming the sentences; actually, improving them. Two were in dialogue and could stay; two more were truly transitions between sentences. Whether because she hadn’t heard or was ignoring him, Sully wasn’t sure. Actually, it was all as new to him as to her.