‘Actually’ + ‘Literally’ = Yikes!

by | May 3, 2017


What did I say? Did I start my sentence … with … ‘actually’?”

Not Kathie York, the grammar doyenne! Surely not.

Unfortunately, Mrs. York’s Mr. York – with a twinkle in his eye because he’d caught me in a ‘filler’ word faux pas – corroborated it:

“Yes, you began your sentence with ‘actually’.”

I’ve been known to start over to say things properly.

It had been a long time since I’d done it for ‘actually.’

“What’s the deal?”

The deal was: we’d discovered a great TV show, Stargate SG-1. I was binge-watching the entire series as quickly as I had spare cash to purchase the boxed sets.

The problem? Carter begins about every 10th sentence with “Actually….”

Since we speak what we hear and I was overdosing on this hated filler word, it crept back into my vocabulary.


For the most part, ‘actually’ and ‘literally’ are interchangeable.
Unfortunately, they are most often used in senseless ways.
See what you think of these:

“I was literally (actually) embarrassed to death.”
“He’s actually (literally) from another planet.”
“The walls literally (actually) started closing in on me.”

“What’s the problem?”

The first example means you’re dead. Yer talkin’ to me, so I’m assumin’ yer alive.

The second reminds me of a man in our town, but I think it’s just a rumor.

The last one? I’m envisioning the rebels inside the room-sized trash compactor in the original Star Wars movie.

Just sayin’.

These are legal 😎 

Let’s leave ‘actually’ and ‘literally’ at the door unless we’re voicing a cliché that happens to be true. For example:

  • “It’s hot enough out here to actually fry an egg on the sidewalk.” The newscaster demonstrated, cracking – yep! – an egg onto the pavement before a million viewers. And that puppy cooked, sunny side up as we watched!
  • “The check is literally in the mail,” when it is on its way.
  • “The television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine literally started with a bang.” It did! We walked right into a space battle.

Your Takeaway: Obnoxious fillers in our speaking and writing detract from our message. These extras also cost us money when an editor calculates our bill.

Check out this post about my “7 deadly” words to avoid!

Final Note: When we speak or write, consider fillers as they crop up. “Do I need this word?” If the answer is “No,” dump it.


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  1. Melony Ramsey

    Cool! My sister-in-law uses LITTER-ULY in abundance! Each section is pronounced very distinctly. Annoying!

    • Kathie York

      Hey! Now you can point here and say “See?!” Appreciate the comment and yeah … someone saying that would certainly get on my nerves.



  1. [QW12] Kathie's '7 deadlies': words to avoid in projects - Kathie York - […] ‘Actually’ + ‘Literally’ = Yikes! […]

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Kathie York, CSQE
Queen of Non-Overwhelm
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