Writing

Words to Watch For

Before you let that novel go out into the world to be torn apart, do some of that yourself. When writing your first draft, it’s a matter of getting the words out, not right. But don’t let those unnecessary words stick around. Sometimes a simple search in your manuscript will open your eyes. Here are a few things I check on:

1) Words that promote passive writing

HEARD
SAW
LOOKED

For example “I heard the birds chirping.”  can be easily changed to “The birds chirped.”

2) Words that can be replaced by a more active verb or are unnecessary altogether

STOOD
STOOD UP – never need the “up” because that’s how you always stand
MOVED
WALKED
SAT
SAT DOWN – again, you always sit down, so don’t need the “down”
SMILED
LAUGHED

3) Crutch or pet words – you can eliminate most of them

REALLY
PROBABLY
ONLY
PRETTY
JUST
RATHER
NOW
EVEN
QUITE
ACTUALLY
KIND OF
THEN
FINALLY
SUPPOSED TO
SUDDENLY

4) Double preps

For example, “He looked over at her.”

5) An egregious use of -ly words

Not all are bad, some are needed. Just don’t use them unwisely.

For example, “I feel so bad for you,” he said sadly.

6) THAT

Sometimes needed, sometimes not. Regardless, a hard one to search for

I hope this will promote an ongoing conversation within the group, people identifying those things they look for when going through their own editing process.

Until next week – Don’t Look Down
by William Darrah Whitaker

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Words to Watch For

  1. It is a great idea to look for such words. I have a file with words I “hate” when reading other peoples works. When done with my own stories I do a word search for each word. Then think how I can rewrite the sentence without that word. For me the number one on my list is, “AND”. I hate that one.

  2. “I feel so bad for you,” he said sadly.

    I don’t think that’s a good example; I do not find it necessary or even smooth. I might instead use something like this:

    “I feel so bad for you,” he said, his sad eyes agreeing with his words.
    “I feel so bad for you,” he said, as sadness dragged at his face like a new form of gravity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s