50 Vague Words (Overview, Lists, Examples)

Specificity of language plays a crucial role in effective language and good storytelling.

This article explores the concept of vague words, why they can be problematic in clear communication, and 50 such words with more precise alternatives.

What are Vague Words and Why are They Problematic?

(This post may have afilliate links. Please see my full disclosure)
The words VAGUE WORDS floating above a man's hand, blurred background
I made this image with AI – VAGUE WORDS

Vague words are those that lack specificity and clarity, often leading to ambiguity and misunderstanding.

They are problematic because they can make communication less effective, hinder understanding, and leave room for multiple interpretations. In professional and academic contexts, specifically, vague words can undermine the credibility of the message and the speaker.

That’s why we are going to look at 50 vague words and better alternatives.

List of 50 Vague Words with Alternatives

Read through these vague words, bookmark this article, and try out the alternatives in your writing.


  • Why Vague: It’s a catch-all term that can mean almost anything.
  • Alternatives: item, object, device, artifact, equipment.


  • Why Vague: Similar to ‘thing,’ it’s overly general and unspecific.
  • Alternatives: materials, belongings, gear, possessions, contents.


  • Why Vague: Lacks detail about what makes something desirable or satisfactory.
  • Alternatives: excellent, superb, outstanding, first-rate, high-quality.


  • Why Vague: It’s a subjective term that doesn’t convey specific negative aspects.
  • Alternatives: poor, unsatisfactory, subpar, inferior, deficient.

A lot

  • Why Vague: This phrase doesn’t quantify or provide a clear measure.
  • Alternatives: numerous, many, copious, abundant, several.

Kind of

  • Why Vague: Indicates uncertainty or a lack of commitment to a description.
  • Alternatives: somewhat, slightly, moderately, partially, to some extent.


  • Why Vague: Too general to understand what is specifically pleasing.
  • Alternatives: charming, delightful, pleasant, agreeable, likable.


  • Why Vague: What makes something interesting is not clear.
  • Alternatives: fascinating, captivating, intriguing, compelling, engaging.


  • Why Vague: Fails to convey why something is of significance.
  • Alternatives: crucial, vital, critical, significant, essential.


  • Why Vague: Plural of ‘thing,’ equally vague and non-specific.
  • Alternatives: items, objects, elements, components, aspects.


  • Why Vague: It’s a filler word that often doesn’t add meaning.
  • Alternatives: truly, genuinely, indeed, absolutely, certainly.


  • Why Vague: Overused to intensify, without specifying how much.
  • Alternatives: extremely, exceptionally, extraordinarily, profoundly, immensely.


  • Why Vague: Shows indecision or uncertainty.
  • Alternatives: possibly, perhaps, potentially, conceivably, might.


  • Why Vague: Lacks precision in quantity or extent.
  • Alternatives: a few, several, a portion of, a number of, certain.


  • Why Vague: Like ‘thing,’ it’s an all-encompassing term.
  • Alternatives: substances, materials, items, belongings, contents.

Sort of

  • Why Vague: Implies uncertainty or a partial quality.
  • Alternatives: somewhat, in a way, partially, moderately, to a degree.


  • Why Vague: Does not quantify or specify the extent.
  • Alternatives: small, tiny, minimal, slight, insignificant.


  • Why Vague: Fails to indicate the actual size or extent.
  • Alternatives: large, huge, substantial, vast, enormous.


  • Why Vague: Does not specify frequency.
  • Alternatives: frequently, regularly, commonly, habitually, repeatedly.


  • Why Vague: Vague in indicating infrequency.
  • Alternatives: seldom, infrequently, occasionally, sporadically, hardly ever.


  • Why Vague: Lacks specifics on speed or time.
  • Alternatives: rapidly, swiftly, promptly, speedily, hastily.


  • Why Vague: Does not define the rate of progression.
  • Alternatives: gradually, leisurely, sluggishly, steadily, unhurriedly.


  • Why Vague: Fails to describe why something is not difficult.
  • Alternatives: simple, straightforward, effortless, uncomplicated, manageable.


  • Why Vague: Does not convey the nature of the difficulty.
  • Alternatives: challenging, tough, difficult, arduous


  • Why Vague: A relative term that doesn’t quantify.
  • Alternatives: numerous, a multitude of, scores of, a plethora of, countless.


  • Why Vague: Lacks precision in indicating a small number.
  • Alternatives: a handful of, several, a small number of, a couple of, not many.


  • Why Vague: Often an exaggeration, not literally true.
  • Alternatives: consistently, invariably, perpetually, unceasingly, without exception.


  • Why Vague: Like ‘always,’ often an overstatement.
  • Alternatives: not once, at no time, under no circumstances, in no case, not ever.


  • Why Vague: Does not specify degree of temperature.
  • Alternatives: warm, scorching, boiling, sweltering, torrid.


  • Why Vague: Fails to indicate how low the temperature is.
  • Alternatives: chilly, freezing, frosty, icy, frigid.


  • Why Vague: Does not specify an age or age range.
  • Alternatives: youthful, juvenile, adolescent, fledgling, immature.


  • Why Vague: Lacks clarity in defining age or condition.
  • Alternatives: elderly, aged, senior, mature, venerable.


  • Why Vague: Does not describe the nature or reason for happiness.
  • Alternatives: joyful, delighted, pleased, content, ecstatic.


  • Why Vague: Fails to convey the depth or reason for sadness.
  • Alternatives: unhappy, sorrowful, dejected, mournful, despondent.


  • Why Vague: Does not quantify speed.
  • Alternatives: swift, rapid, speedy, quick, brisk.


  • Why Vague: Lacks specifics in slowness.
  • Alternatives: sluggish, gradual, leisurely, unhurried, deliberate.


  • Why Vague: Does not detail the type or degree of strength.
  • Alternatives: powerful, robust, sturdy, resilient, formidable.


  • Why Vague: Fails to specify the nature or extent of weakness.
  • Alternatives: feeble, frail, inadequate, ineffective, deficient.


  • Why Vague: Does not quantify wealth or quality.
  • Alternatives: wealthy, affluent, prosperous, opulent, well-off.


  • Why Vague: Lacks specifics in describing lack of wealth or quality.
  • Alternatives: impoverished, needy, destitute, deficient, substandard.


  • Why Vague: Does not provide actual size or magnitude.
  • Alternatives: large, huge, enormous, substantial, massive.


  • Why Vague: Fails to quantify the size or extent.
  • Alternatives: tiny, miniature, diminutive, compact, petite.


  • Why Vague: Lacks specificity in duration or length.
  • Alternatives: extended, prolonged, lengthy, protracted, sustained.


  • Why Vague: Does not specify the brevity or length.
  • Alternatives: brief, fleeting, concise, terse, succinct.


  • Why Vague: Fails to indicate the actual height.
  • Alternatives: lofty, towering, elevated, high, statuesque.


  • Why Vague: Does not quantify the breadth.
  • Alternatives: broad, expansive, extensive, spacious, vast.


  • Why Vague: Lacks precision in defining the width.
  • Alternatives: limited, confined, restricted, slender, tight.


  • Why Vague: Does not specify the degree of light or intelligence.
  • Alternatives: luminous, radiant, brilliant, intelligent, clever.


  • Why Vague: Fails to define the lack of light or mood.
  • Alternatives: dim, shadowy, gloomy, obscure, somber.


  • Why Vague: Does not quantify weight or severity.
  • Alternatives: weighty, hefty, burdensome, substantial, ponderous.


  • Why Vague: Lacks specifics in weight or intensity.
  • Alternatives: lightweight, slight, easy, gentle, mild.

Vague Phrases and Statements

Vague phrases and statements can be just as problematic as vague words, leading to confusion and misinterpretation.

Here’s a list of common vague phrases, along with suggestions for making them more clear and specific:

  • “We will do it soon.”
    • More Clear: “We will complete the task by next Friday.”
  • “That’s not a big deal.”
    • More Clear: “The issue is minor and can be resolved quickly.”
  • “She is sort of experienced.”
    • More Clear: “She has three years of experience in this field.”
  • “He works hard.”
    • More Clear: “He consistently exceeds his monthly targets.”
  • “The meeting was okay.”
    • More Clear: “The meeting was productive and covered all agenda items.”
  • “This might be a problem.”
    • More Clear: “This will cause a delay in our project timeline.”
  • “Let’s meet sometime next week.”
    • More Clear: “Let’s schedule our meeting for next Wednesday at 2 PM.”
  • “I need this done as soon as possible.”
    • More Clear: “Please complete this task by the end of the day.”
  • “The project was a success, kind of.”
    • More Clear: “The project achieved its goals but went over budget.”
  • “We should talk about it later.”
    • More Clear: “Let’s discuss this issue in our meeting on Thursday.”

These examples illustrate how replacing vague phrases with specific information can significantly enhance clarity and understanding.

YouTube Video by ESLEnglishFaby – Vague Words

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s look at frequency asked questions about vague language.

Is It Ever a Good Idea to Use a Vague Word?

Vague words can occasionally be useful in certain contexts, such as in creative writing where ambiguity might add to the narrative, or in diplomatic situations where directness could be inappropriate. However, in most professional, academic, and clear communication scenarios, specificity is preferred.

When to Use Vague Words?

Vague words are best used when:

  • In Early Stages of Planning: When details are not yet available.
  • In Creative Writing: To add mystery or depth.
  • In Diplomatic Conversations: To avoid committing to specifics prematurely.
  • In Informal Settings: Where precision is not critical.

How Can Vague Words Affect Communication?

Vague words can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and lack of clarity in communication. This can result in inefficiencies, errors, and sometimes even conflict in both personal and professional settings.

Are There Any Benefits to Using Vague Language?

In certain contexts, vague language can be beneficial. It can provide flexibility, allow for open interpretation, and sometimes help in avoiding conflict or committing to specifics too early.

How Can I Improve My Use of Specific Language?

To improve specificity:

  • Focus on Details: Provide exact figures, names, dates, etc.
  • Avoid Overusing Fillers: Words like “thing,” “stuff,” or “kind of.”
  • Ask for Clarification: If you’re unsure, ask for more details.
  • Practice Active Listening: To understand the importance of specificity in communication.

Final Thoughts

Vague language has its place but more precise words and phrases usually get more of the results you want much quicker.

For more about words, check out our other articles below.

Read This Next