Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Word Search Checklist

While working on my latest work in progress I wrote down a list of all my favourite overused words. We all have them. These are the words we love to repeat because it’s easy to throw them in while we’re in a mad rush to get the story down.

They are convenient words, but they weaken our prose. They drag our creativity into the realms of laziness. They are perfectly fine for the first draft. However, once you’re satisfied with the structure of the story, they should be culled. Below is a sample of my list:

Almost, be, but, felt, gasp, got, is, just, little, looked, *ly, nice, only, put, quickly, said, sat, scowl, seemed, some, so, suddenly, that, then, very, walked, was, went, were.

Thank goodness for the Find/Replace feature in Word. What are some of your favourite repeat words?


Thanks to Jasmine at An Author’s Ramblings, my newest follower. She inspired this post with her post about the word, ‘that’. Check it out here.

45 comments:

  1. pretty sure.

    I need to stop it with that one. My editor about wipped me for it.

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  2. I love the find/replace feature in word. I use extremely, very, smiled, sighed, and definitely a lot. I'm sure there's many more!

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  3. Almost, looked, and seemed. Umm, you been reading my manuscript without me knowing about it, Lynda?
    :)
    Great post, and a good reminder. Thanks!

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  4. Almost. I use it almost all the time. Then I almost always delete it. I don't need it at all.

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  5. My three critique partners gave me a list! I think 'and' was my biggest overused word.

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  6. 'really', I use it way to often

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  7. "That" is one of them, I know--I also have a habit of using too many "ands" to connect sentences that should be separate from each other. :P

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  8. isn't it kinda natural and unavoidable for "was,is, be" to be used millions of times in a book?

    What's with the cactuses, Lyndy? Feeling spiky these days :P

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  9. Could, would, should, look, laugh, giggle, looked, smile, so, have, is, was, and particles in general.

    Then again, sometimes I think the repetition of certain words helps create a voice. Perhaps not the voice we want, but a voice nonetheless.

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  10. I'm a very very bad "that" girl. Oh yes. Be-verbs and That. That kills my prose dead all the time!
    :-)

    Take care
    x

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  11. Oh my, Lynda. This is like being in church, and you swear the preacher's preachin' straight at you! The horror! Um, for me, I would have to say "sort of" or... oh! "Particularly." Good lord. It's like I can't think of a 19th century chick who doesn't put that word in front of everything. "That" is something I really strive to stay clear of. "Just," too.

    This is a great post. I am sooo taking this list you made and going through my WIP. ;)

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  12. I use many words over and over. Especially just and looked. I began to hate those words during the editing process.

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  13. "Kind of" is an issue for me. I used to be completely awful with "that," too, but since I've noticed my problem and begun to correct it, it's only mildly awful. Progress, right?

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  14. When I wrote my first book, I didn't know about find/replace. It was awful. But now, thank goodness!

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  15. Definitely 'seemed' and 'that' are two of my major crutches ;)

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  16. If there was such a thing as death by sighing, by main characters would all die in the first draft ;-)

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  17. Funny. I've prepared a blog on certain action verbs I love to use over and over again. They give me a delightful feeling.

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  18. LOL! Wait, that's one of my overused words. Darn. There I go again! : )

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  19. OOOh! Nice word list you've got there! I love culled. ;)

    Mine is snake, excitement, warm, wrap, against, sharp, presence, allure, pull, squeeze and lean. Lol, and that's just for Darkspell. I have a whole set of diff words for Rock Star and others per book. Funny how that happens, isn't it? :)

    Thank you for visiting my Darkspell Celebration!


    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!
    Pre-order your copy now!

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  20. I need to make a list of all mine. There are tons, but "then," "just," and "really" are some. I call them my training wheel words. One of these days I'll write a post about them, too, but I need to make a list first! I'm so glad you covered this. Thanks to Jasmine for inspiring this topic.

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  21. Hmm... I think I'm going to have to take a crack at using your list, Linda. It's too bad I can't seem to use the Find/Replace feature to delete words, every time I delete one the feature turns off and I have to do it all over again. Do you know what I'm talking about and if there's a way around that?

    Oh, and thank you so much for promoting my blog. I'm flattered! :3

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  22. 'which' and 'looked' are my two big nonos. Though I'm guilty of overusing most of the words in your list,hehe

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  23. Read, gotta love editors ;)

    Madeline, oh yes! I forgot sighed and smiled.

    Bryce, hehehe

    Liza, lol

    Alex, I like my short clipped sentences so 'and' isn't one of my foibles. I probably need to use it more often lol.

    Shanda, really? ;)

    Golden, yarp, 'that' is a terror.

    Dezzy, ah, but often we can replace 'was' with something stronger. For example: 'he was in the shadows' with something stronger, like 'he lurked in the shadows'.

    Re the cactus pics, I went on a photo expedition on the weekend to the Royal Botanic Gardens and took heaps of pics including their succulent and rare cactus section.

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  24. McKenzie, for sure, some are fine, but when we could replace them with something stronger then we probably should. See the example I gave Dezzy in the comments.

    Old Kitty, it's looking like 'that' is one of the more common ones.

    Alyssia, hahaha, so funny. Hope it helps.

    Clarissa, yeah, they have that effect. And then, when you read books for pleasure those words stand out as if printed in red.

    Jenna, fantastic progress yes! :)

    Bethany, I don't know what I'd do with out that feature.

    Trisha, seemed...shudder (me too)

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  25. Samantha, hahaha mine too. So funny.

    Shelly, a tingle? ;)

    Emily, lol, they have a way of creeping in ;)

    Elizabeth, yes! I left out the more specific words, like march, shudder, presence and I also have snake too!

    LynNerd, Yep, there are a lot. The list is just a sample. Sigh ;)

    Jasmine, yep, my version of Word switches the feature off when I make a correction other than 'replace'. I'm used to using the shortcut key for it (ctrl+H for replace or ctrl+F for find). It remembers my last entry so it's not a big issue for me.

    Jamie, hehe, I'm still finding words to add to that list too.

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  26. What a brilliant idea - I must do the same when I've finished my WIP!

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  27. Great idea. I need to do this at some point in time with my current wip. Maybe at the end of this revision.

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  28. I said it on Facebook and I'll say it here - BUT, SO, AND. And the worst: THAT.

    I'll check out the 'that' link.

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  29. During a recent revision, I caught myself using several words and names of people repeatedly. I found the list of overused words vary with my topic. If I'm talking about caregiving - I may use nursing home or facility too much. I try to read it out loud to catch the repeats and then use find and replace to clean it up. I've been using a site to check for my "to be" dependency.

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  30. I also overuse "even" and "still" a TON. Especially "even though"--gah! Thanks for the list. We should all keep one on hand and check our ms through for these offenders!

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  31. I use "But" and "nice" and "suddenly a lot. I need to get out of that habit.

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  32. What is it with just and was? I can't seem to get enough of them.

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  33. I def agree with getting rid of repeat words like "to be" verbs. However, I've found some readers like certain repeat words as it grounds them in the story. For instance, I like to use a lot of alternatives to "said" i.e. asked, exclaimed, etc etc, but I've had feedback from several readers who prefer to almost always see "said" after a character speaks as it helps them follow the flow of the dialog better. So I guess it all depends:)

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  34. I <3 that very much. :D I call those crutch words.

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  35. Ellie, hope it helps

    Carrie, at the end is a good time

    Theresa, hehehe

    Aimee, ah yes, I should add that to my list

    Stacy, I'm wondering what site you use to check for the 'to be' dependency.

    Carol, I'm starting to use 'even though' a lot too because I'm trying to replace 'but' hahaha.

    Rachna, once you break those bad habits, you'll pick up new bad habits ;) hehehe

    Shari, they are magnetic ;)

    Mark, the problem with using tags other than said is it can become telling rather than showing and it can become melodramatic (depending on what alternative you use). So, use the alternatives in moderation. I might write a post up about this.

    M Pax, that is an awesome word that has that special magnetic something that draws us to that... lol ;)

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  36. I tend to overuse "so" and keep starting sentences with "and" Thanks for sharing this post and the links. There is something to learn from the comments as well!

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  37. "Exclaimed." (just kidding). I overuse "just" and "totally". I am such a valley girl!

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  38. Lynda, I agree if we CAN make a piece stronger we obviously should, I just brought up the point of "what IS a stronger piece?"

    Also, while I'm here, I might as well respond to the comment you left on my blog. It IS insane. It's this kind of treatment that made all of the hippies riot. I've read many places that say editors care more about the piece versus the author, but I guess it's a little more complicated than that.

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  39. I use just a lot too. But I don't think words like is, the, a and and need to be changed. And I try to lose the was, going for the active verb.

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  40. One that's not so common any more, but used to be is an incredibly long list of gerunds.

    I also fall for felt, see, thought etc.

    :-)

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  41. Nas, yes, the comments have been fantastic

    Jessie, hahaha, that's awesome.

    McKenzie, I guess it is a bit more complicated. It's still crazy, though.

    Samantha, I agree, though I think 'and' can be overused in some places.

    Misha, gotta love the gerunds ;)

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  42. 'But', 'then', 'while', 'looked'…. I especially started to hate ‘but’. There was a 'but' almost everywhere. Not so fond of 'but' anymore...:D

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  43. I'm a stickler (in my own writing especially) for words that add weak description such as "VERY," and "REALLY." But you're right, we all have our crutch words too...that what editors are for! : )

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  44. Marieke, yep, but is my weakness as well. Used to love the word LOL.

    Alexander, yep, 'very' is my least favourite word.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.