“A lot” is a piece of land, or so said many of my high school English teachers whenever anyone used “a lot” to describe an amount.
Unfortunately, in much of the work we’re asked to edit, “a lot” is used…a lot.
Here are a few examples of how the term is commonly used:
- “There will be a lot of drinking after work tonight.”
- “Our style guide does not appear to be used by a lot of people.”
- “I try not to ask for a lot of help from the IT Department.”
- “There’s not a lot we can do about the CEO’s use of run-on sentences.”
- “I know he says it a lot, but your brother cannot trade you for an iPad.”
Its use in formal writing is lazy and colloquial. And as a quantifier, it’s meaningless. How much is “a lot,” exactly?
What follows is a list of alternatives to “a lot.” Consider using these more descriptive words and phrases in your next project.
- a good deal
- a great deal
- a large number
- a whole heap
- an abundance
- copious, copious amount
- endless amount
- enormous amount
- excessive amount
Let’s give those example sentences another try:
- “There will be an excessive amount of drinking after work tonight.”
- “Our style guide does not appear to be used by many people.”
- “I try not to ask for any help from the IT Department.”
- “There’s not much we can do about the CEO’s use of run-on sentences.”
- “I know he says it constantly, but your brother cannot trade you for an iPad.”
Ragan.com readers, care to add any other synonyms to the list?
Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. She writes about writing and editing at impertinentremarks.com.
This article first appeared on Ragan.com in November 2014.