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 like… I 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.
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.
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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