Word Search

As some of you know I’m working on the last parts of editing for ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series. I thought you might be interested in seeing how the Word Search part of this process works.

I have a list of approximately 75 words and phrases. My first list of 45 I got from Margie Lawson. She’s the first person who suggested to me perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. As I used her list, my list grew because I added new words I stumbled on I was overusing in different books. Check our Margie. She’s a great teacher.  https://www.margielawson.com/

I don’t remember which book, but I hit on these words, Sounds good… or Sounds likeI used those words 150 times. In my recent search of ACT OF BETRAYAL, I discovered I didn’t use the phrase at all. 0 Times. Rewarding, I’m telling you.

There is, There are, There’s are commonly over used phrases. I had a total of 25 combined and reduced them to 5. Why don’t we want to use those words? Because they aren’t as active. Look at this example. “There are sweet smelling flowers in the garden.”  Say “Flowers fill the garden with their sweet scent.”  Much more active.

Here are other commonly overused words: well, somewhat, mused, a bit/a little, in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact, and so on and so forth, watch, see, gave, although, almost, some, however, and somewhat. I didn’t use any of these words at all; words I used to use consistently. After checking the word search, I take great pride in writing a zero by the word on my list. Do you wonder why I leave them on the list if I’ve stopped using them? Partly because of the good feeling seeing the zero pop up gives me and partly because I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.


What about words which get by me?  So went from 180 to 37, that went from 340 to 69. I had improved on the overuse of this word but for some reason, I went back to using that in grammatically correct phrases, but where the word isn’t needed. Here’s an example from above in this post: I originally wrote the sentence this way:  She’s the first person who suggested to me that perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. I changed it to:  She’s the first person who suggested perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. As I typed, I backed up and removed that. One of those  correct grammatical usages, but not necessary for a reader to get the content.

I’ve improved on many overused words. Really only showed up 27 times. I got it down to 9. I wrote very 27 times and got it to 1. My most favorite word in all the world is just. I think, breath and speak this word. I reduced just from 159 to 9.IMG_5600

How do I do the switch? Sometimes, I delete the word, but more often I find a substitute or a totally different way of saying what I mean.  Thesaurus is my friend. Here are examples (the first is what I wrote first; the second is the edited one) from ACT OF BETRAYAL:

Do you want to come by?  Would you like to come by? (Of course I used would and like in the second example. Need to give more thought to the sentence. 😦   )

So, what is it you don’t want me to know, Mom?” What are you afraid for me to find out? (I’d used want 154 times in the ms! Got it down to 53.)

She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and slid on her reading glasses. ….popped on her reading glasses. Slid went from 32 to 6. (Slid is used instead of put.)

A tear slipped out of one eye and slid down her cheek. A tear slipped out of one eye and trickled down her cheek.

We’ll be eating in a few minutes. We’ll be eating in less than five minutes. Few went from 32 to 11.

e2ac521a-48d7-4683-8d0e-c5cbed4dff29 Included for a touch of color and because it’s a good message for editors. 🙂

Why do we fall into the habit of using these words? When we begin, we’re writing the story, getting it on the screen. Then we rewrite and fix story line issues. Using, just, very, few…these are all ways of talking in everyday life; we’re used to using them. Reading these words slows down the story. As writers, it’s important to keep readers turning those pages and not do anything to bog them down.

I have more words and more examples I’ll share next month for my post on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog. Watch for the post Tuesday, July 11. https://sisterhoodofsuspense.com/blog

Do you have favorite words you use a lot? Have any of you used, “you know,” the great filler from the 70s. If you’re an author do you do a word search like this? As a reader, are these things you notice when reading? If you’d like a copy of my 75 words and phrases, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. Love to hear from you.

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9 responses to “Word Search

  1. Hello Marsha. I did a word search on a few words after reading your posts on FB. 🙂 I eliminated some of the words. Best wishes on finishing your manuscript.

    I should finish the final reread through with doing revisions by the end of weekend. Then I will read through the entire book and turn it in by mid-July at the latest. I can’t wait!!!

    Interesting post as usual. 🙂 Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Susan. I don’t notice you using a lot of the throw away words. You may instinctively self-edit as you write. I’m better, but still….However, I’m seeing the book become tighter as I do this process. Good luck with your next book. You seem to be right on track. Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Lordy, Marsha! I so get this. I use Wordcounter and make lists. I discover there are dupe words right next to each other I didn’t notice the 2 or 22 time I reviewed. That does happen. But in a way, I’m glad because it forces me to examine my manuscript and do some rewriting which is always better and fresher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey,Vicki. Yes. I find reading it in small disconnected swatches, stuff shows up I just don’t see when I’m regularly reading through. It’s kind of like when we pick a One Line Wednesday line. That exercise was enlightening. Now it’s “was.” Good grief. But so much better as I go along. Thanks for stopping by.


    • Hey, Jacquie. “But” used to be one of my favorites, too. I’ve gotten better at not overusing it. I think LOL I tend to think in “either/ors” so the “but” construction comes naturally. Oh, gosh, I need to add “but” back to my list. Bummer! LOL Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you. How thoughtful of you to share your steps in writing/revising. My first editor gave me a “villain” words list I still use today. (I almost slipped that into this sentence…LOL) I do appreciate it and amazed at how I overuse words like just. Just like you! Clearing them out of the ms definitely makes a tighter, more interesting read. I use the Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus to help me construct a better sentence. Keep going! Best wishes with your upcoming release!


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