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Tip Tuesday #27

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so.

Today, middle grade author Beth Pollock, whom you may remember from my interview with her, offers up a tip on overused words. I think it compliments my Tighter Writing series nicely. Enjoy!

One of my favorite ways to clean up my writing is to go through my list of overused words. Every author has a set of words that he or she relies on, and the more I write, the more I recognize my crutches. I now have a list of forty words that I check my documents for at every stage. It's a bit time-consuming, but it's amazing how a manuscript can be improved by eliminating those words. It also helps my early drafts -- I'm less likely to use them simply because I've had to edit them so many times!

Here's an example from my recent writing. 'Turn' is a word that I overuse, likely because it's useful in so many contexts. On checking my manuscript, I found my characters turning to talk to one another, turning up the heat, turning an activity into a game and turning their luck around. In some cases I found a synonym; in other cases I eliminated the phrase entirely. (In addition to the adverbs that Casey mentioned in a recent post, other culprits in my writing include 'could', 'know', and the ever-useful 'look'.)

A fun way to discover some of your own crutches is to enter a few pages on wordle.net. This website generates a picture of your story in words, and the ones you use most will appear in the largest font.

This is such a great tip, Beth. I keep an eye out for my crutches, but I haven't made an official list yet. I love the idea. Thank you!


Elana Johnson said...

I so need to do this! I use whisper and kissed as verbs way way WAY too much. Great tip!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Wordle, like, totally, showed me, like, all, these, words that I kept using, like every sentence. Like, totally.

Word ver is chill. Thanks for the suggestion Blogger.

Lisa Nowak said...

That Wordle thing sounds cool. I'll have to try it. I am aware of some of my overused words and phrases, but I'm sure there are more I've missed.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's such great advice. I now have a list too and as I get done with revising a chapter or two, I search for them and see if I can revise or delete any of them. I overuse turn too.

Brandi Guthrie said...

Oooh. That is awesome. Apparently, I use "just" and "felt" a lot. Argh!!!

Janine said...

The AutoCrit Editing Wizard is also awesome at finding overused words as well as words which you repeat too closely (something that Wordle can't do).

kathrynjankowski said...

Terrific tip! Thanks, Casey and Beth.

Marcia said...

This. This. This. This.

Word verification: thips

What are the chances? :)

Paul Greci said...

I haven't used wordle yet but plan to give wordle a whirl. Thanks!

Laura Pauling said...

I like the wordle idea. Definitely worth trying out.