vague phrases to avoid in your query letter
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50 Vague Phrases that have No Business in your Query

Vague phrases are killing your query

Vague wording is the number 1 problem I (and many other editors) find when critiquing queries and Twitter pitches. There are thousands of Twitter pitches in a contest. Agents get dozens, sometimes hundreds, of queries a day. You have only a few seconds to make your story stand out. When pitches are too vague, we learn nothing about what makes your story unique. This is what editors and agents are looking for: the story that stands out.


When evil lurks, a band of friends joins together to combat the dark forces that could change their world forever.

Hmm. Could be Harry Potter? Could be Lord of the Rings? I really have no idea.

Let’s try again:

Four unlikely friends must rescue a princess who holds the key to saving the rebellion and the galaxy’s last hope of freedom.

Definitely not Harry Potter.

When you take out the vague phrases in your pitch and replace them with specifics, your pitch is transformed.

In the second example, I know exactly what movie the pitch is.

During a recent Twitter pitch contest, I made a list of 50 vague phrases from real pitches. Don’t waste your precious 140 characters with these.

  1. plan to destroy
  2. heartbreaking diagnosis
  3. perilous path
  4. dangerous game
  5. lose her soul
  6. faces darkness
  7. ancient world
  8. mysterious past
  9. secrets unravel
  10. fun adventure
  11. dilemmas ripen wisdom
  12. discover the secret
  13. things will never be the same
  14. tragic events
  15. life is forever changed
  16. mysterious game
  17. evil plan
  18. dark forces
  19. evil lurks
  20. reality splits
  21. could destroy him/her
  22. reclaim former glory
  23. world is in danger
  24. step up her game
  25. temptations arise
  26. deadly plot
  27. unforgivable circumstances
  28. dark past
  29. dangerous mission
  30. enemy plans
  31. unseen complications
  32. disaster ensues
  33. a dangerous world
  34. no matter the cost
  35. cost her everything
  36. ruins everything
  37. life turns upside down
  38. fates conspire
  39. blessing in disguise
  40. can of worms
  41. go for broke
  42. worst nightmare
  43. face the consequences
  44. mysterious connection
  45. ruins her life
  46. destroy their world
  47. unforeseen crisis
  48. personal struggle
  49. descend into chaos
  50. alters reality

These phrases are like pronouns without antecedents. We don’t know what they are referring to. This mystery isn’t intriguing; it’s frustrating. If you find any of these phrases in your pitch, take it out and replace it with the specific details. Worst nightmare becomes a missing child. Ruins her life becomes gets kicked out of med school. Notice how the specific detail is more intriguing? This is what you want because this is what an editor/agent wants.

Your pitch is selling your book. Give it the specific details that will make it undeniably yours.

Know any vague phrases I missed? Add them to the comments.

Know a writer who would love this? Share it on social media or pin one of these images. Thanks!

M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


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