Thursday, September 19, 2013

Self Editing - Seek & Destroy Word List #3

To aid you in further Seek and Destroy exploits, the following is a list of words over-used by me and some of my lovely, gorgeous, sophisticated followers. Check out your manuscript to see if you're an over-user too (the first step to solving the problem is admitting that you have one). Or read below the list for some help on how to determine your words de jour.

Do you have any to add to the list? (Seriously, do you? I'll add them)

'And so,'
Realize / realized / realizing
Turned (i.e. "I turned to find...")

If you're not sure which words you're prone to overusing, you can use software like a wordcloud, or this manuscript analyzer (which claims to use your own computer for the processing, ergo your words aren't transmitted anywhere).

But if you've been writing more than one book, don't be fooled:

In my first I manuscript overused several character actions (shrugging, nodding, winking and such). In my current in-revision manuscript, I'm giving too many stomach / gut reaction references. My WIP is heavy on the shivering, trembling, shaking and so forth.

All that to say: Even if you've looked at previous manuscripts and eradicated overuse, don't just assume you'll have the same word hiccups in a new work. By all means, find and replace words you know you're prone to using. But also check each new manuscript for new offenders.

That's all from us today. Next post: The Dreaded Modifiers.

Your Turn: Comment with any more words you'd add to the overuse list, or good links / tips for figuring out who your offenders are.


  1. Oh great reminder!! I use "there" a lot and have to seek out and destroy it from every ms.

  2. Thanks, Pk. I've added it to the list.

  3. So true! Every time I conquer one set of words/phrases/character actions, the next manuscript has a whole bunch of other ones. *head desk* My last manuscript had a lot of thoughts "swirling" or spinning or whatever in people's heads. And lots of people waking up disoriented. ;)

  4. "probably"

    I think that you should right a post detailing the right way to use these words. When I post a link to this series on a forum, more than one poster had less than positive reactions to the articles. Probably (I know) because of the implications of the phrase "search and destroy".

  5. Ending every other sentence with 'as well'. Saw it in the last manuscript I edited. ::dies::

  6. Would you be willing to give some examples of how to resolve 'turn' / turned as a problem word? Ditto for the variations of 'realized'?

    Some words are easier than others to resolve.. but others, like 'because' are tough. I just went through my MS and looked at every instant of 'because', and the only possible substitution I could come up with was 'as' - which seems weaker...


  7. Absolutely fascinating. Now cringing at my over use of breath/breathe/breathed! I can't imagine how I have 71 instances in my manuscript!! That's one usage every 1000 words or so...

    Turn/turned also a biggie for me.

  8. "Really." "Really" seems to show up every other sentence in my writing, or worse. It is really ridiculous. ;-) One of my big issues is brevity. I have been intentional of late about deep pruning when editing. Oddly difficult at times, but so fruitful.

  9. Yes, my darlings are very much martyrs...for every one I strike down, two more arise in their place. LOL. Good idea, using wordcloud. I'll have to look into that.

  10. Oh, wordcloud is a good tool to figure out overused words. And this is a great list! I overuse a lot of these. I also use BUT and STILL and ONLY waaaay too much. I've critiqued a lot of manuscripts that overuse BUT. Really common.

    1. You're right. I'm a BUT-er too ;) I'll add that one. I think I've got the others covered in other posts. Thanks for stopping by!