#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Edit - Find - Destroy!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to seek out and destroy the overused words that pose a threat to your manuscript.

Grab your pen and paper, boys, it's time to find Public Enemy #1.

.... Ready?

Sit down with your chapters and just glance at them. You should see some words pop out. Over used words. Fall back words you use when you don't want to stop and think of something better.

It's time to kill those words.

On a word document this is very easy.

1. Open document

2. Click EDIT

3. Click FIND

4. Search for every instance of that word in your chapter or manuscript and decide if you really need it there.

How Often Can I Use My Words?

High frequency words: and, the, is, I, character names..... These words pop up in almost every paragraph but can still be overused. Don't use "I" or "name" for every reference to the character. Pronouns were invented for a reason!
--> Limit these to once every 100 words.

Common Words:
had, to be, was, saw, look, smile, said, could, should, would..... Some of the most used words in the common language. They are fall backs for everyone, but that doesn't mean you can't find something better to fit that space.
--> Limit these (especially the verbs) to once every 250 words.

Uncommon Words: introspective, austere, informal, precision.... No one is going to dive for the dictionary if you use these words but they shouldn't be your fall back words unless you have a character who speaks very formally all the time.
--> Limit these to once every 500-1000 words.

Rare Words: oleagenous, barophilic, thews, tessla, superjacent, chirography.... Unless you need to have an in-depth technical discussion to advance your plot be aware of these words. It's easy to take one home as a pet, but then it multiples.
--> Limit use of these words to once or twice per full length novel.

What words are you overusing?

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Photo courtesy of the US Navy.


  1. Love it! This is just brilliant...something I'll check on second round of edits for Termion. Thank you!

  2. Ugh....I over use "just" just so much!

  3. Great post! I'm so guilty of using crutch words. Time to have a search and destroy mission of my own.

  4. This is a great post. Many people forget to look for things like overused words... including me. A fellow-writer friend suggested I start using Wordle and I LOVE IT!!


    Give it a shot. It might not give you everything you need, but it's still great.

  5. Very good. Especially since I'm revising one. Good point on reducing over used words!

  6. I love wordle! Although I usually use it for fun, not editing.

    I'll have to give it a try. :o)