The troubling case of “awesome” in this week’s blog posting

The UK-based training organization,, from which I received certification last winter in ESL teaching, recommends the website, “” ( as a resource for teaching new learners of English.

I was glad to see the site address the problem of “awesome”—a linguistic bugbear of mine (and maybe yours, too)?

“Awesome,” although no longer in its heyday, still continues to be an overused word in the English language. As their contributor, Jennifer, writes, “let’s stop using it as a default every time we’re too lazy, busy, insecure,” etc., to think of a more precise word.

“Awesome” is now nearly passe: “It no longer makes you sound cool.” I found it hard to hear coming from the mouths of 80+ year olds near me, nearly ten years ago.

If you feel tempted, especially in spoken English, to say something is “awesome,” you could consider these better (more precise) options:

  • unimaginable
  • unanticipated
  • phenomenal
  • remarkable
  • unbelievable
  • breathtaking
  • tremendous
  • unexpected
  • spectacular
  • unthinkable
  • unforeseen
  • significant
  • stunning
  • startling
  • splendid
  • wonderful
  • overwhelming
  • stupefying

The diversity in meaning of the terms in the list above reflects just how sloppy  (i.e imprecise) it is to use a “catch-all” term like “awesome.”

For all writers and readers (including my ESL students), the sooner we think more precisely than speaking or writing the term “awesome,”  the sooner we elevate the quality of our communication.

And that can only be a good thing, say teachers of English at every level!

And now it’s your turn: have you used “awesome” as a descriptor in spoken or written English? What happens when you replace it with one of the above alternatives? Please share your linguistic bugbears with me. I’d be delighted to use them in future postings.