Saturday, May 14, 2011

Word Abuse

I have been reediting a manuscript over the past couple of days and I came across many words that I abuse WAY too often. What are these words? Let me tell you.

1st- Just about anything that ends in "ly" but even more specifically...

Words of timing- finally, immediately, suddenly, quickly, instantly, occassionally
(These are some of the most overused words of all time- it seems everything happens "suddenly"- especially during intense scenes)

Words that soften absolutes- nearly, only, merely, simply, really, definitely, just, almost
(Instead of saying his heart stopped with fear I soften it by saying something like, "his heart nearly stopped with fear")

Words of sequence- continue, began, started
(Instead of saying someone did something, I tend to say they "continued" to do something, or "began" doing something. This often weakens the sentence)

Words that show emotion or repetitive actions- smile, grin, look, glance, nod, move, breath, sighed
(I tend to write giving screen directions as if directing a film. I don't need to tell the reader every time the character gives a lopsided grin or sigh.)

Was- This is a category in a class of its own. "Was" tells the reader about something instead of showing. We want the reader to be involved. We want them to feel like they are there, seeing and feeling the action, not being told second hand. Be very cautious of "was".

Repetition in writing causes boredom for the reader and it is often a sign of laziness on the part of the author. It lacks creativity. Of course many of these words will be used at multiple points in a manuscript but we should be cautious not to over use. If you fear you may be using words too often perform a simple test.

Go into the edit function of Microsoft Word and click on FIND. Enter whatever word you want to search or even letters you want to search like "ly" and it will autimatically move you from one "ly" word to the next and you can then decide if you are overusing. I found that I needed to delete at least half of my "ly" adverbs and adjectives and I don't think I'm alone in this. Many times a simple deletion did the trick, but other times I was forced to rewrite the entire sentence, which made it stronger. The edit featuer is fantastic. Don't be afraid to use it.

The words you abuse may be different than mine. Be sure to keep a watchful eye.


  1. This is such a true and painful post. Don't go read my blog. You might end up bored and find that I'm a lazy writer. Shoot! ;)