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wandergirl
04-22-2009, 01:33 AM
What are those words and phrases you find yourself constantly overusing in your book(s)? I'm at that final-pass-before-betas stage in my 65k YA novel, and luckily I've learned to jot down my verbal crutches in a revision file as I go. Now, I'm using find/replace to seek and destroy. I just discovered, for example, that I used the word "something" 76 times. Talk about a weak word!

Other problem terms for me are "too late", "already", "hardly", "always", "somehow" and "thing" (i.e., " The subtext in every little thing she did").

What are yours?

Niki_G
04-22-2009, 01:35 AM
"was", "as", "even", "tightly" and "just" so far.

scarletpeaches
04-22-2009, 01:38 AM
Qualifiers such as 'rather', 'very' and 'quite'.

'That'.

And personal pronouns.

Bryan M Stephenson
04-22-2009, 01:43 AM
Other than physically circling each word how do you use Microsoft word to count how many times a word was used. I think that would be very helpful.

wandergirl
04-22-2009, 01:47 AM
Other than physically circling each word how do you use Microsoft word to count how many times a word was used. I think that would be very helpful.

Press Control + F to get to Find/Replace.
Type in whatever is is you're looking for in the Find field. Then click the "Reading Highlight" button, and select "Highlight All".
It'll highlight every instance of that term, and tell you how many times you used it. You can bounce from term to term by selecting next, or clear the highlights by selecting "Clear Highlighting."

Invaluable!

Mr Flibble
04-22-2009, 01:47 AM
A little
merely
just
almost
suddenly
nearly
Too many sentences that start with pronouns. <--- personal failing.

Cyia
04-22-2009, 01:50 AM
Just, more than a little, apparently

Niki_G
04-22-2009, 01:51 AM
Press Control + F to get to Find/Replace.
Type in whatever is is you're looking for in the Find field. Then click the "Reading Highlight" button, and select "Highlight All".
It'll highlight every instance of that term, and tell you how many times you used it. You can bounce from term to term by selecting next, or clear the highlights by selecting "Clear Highlighting."

Invaluable!

This is the most useful thing I've learned all day. And I had 3 classes today. Thanks!

wandergirl
04-22-2009, 01:52 AM
'That'.

I'm usually good about "that" -- I never write "she thought that", or "he believed that", etc. But I just searched for it and found 472! Seems I use it a bunch in terms like "that afternoon." Somebody do me a favor and let me know how many THATs they have in their book.... (again, mine's YA, at 65k)


This is the most useful thing I've learned all day. And I had 3 classes today. Thanks!

Welcome! :)

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 01:52 AM
"was",

I don't think verb forms can be overused. Just my opinion. Of course, you shouldn't put thirty was's in a sentence, but there's really no other way to say "He was walking."

scarletpeaches
04-22-2009, 01:54 AM
I don't think verb forms can be overused. Just my opinion. Of course, you shouldn't put thirty was's in a sentence, but there's really no other way to say "He was walking."

Yes there is.

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 01:56 AM
Yes there is.

How's that?

scarletpeaches
04-22-2009, 01:57 AM
He walked.

Sure, you might say you want the walking to seem more current, but 'he was this' and 'he was that' all the time isn't showing; it's telling.

Cyia
04-22-2009, 01:58 AM
"He was walking" is okay, but doesn't convey much in the sense of tone, unless you're saying "He was walking as opposed to driving."

He walked.
He clomped.
He tiptoed.
He sauntered.
He prissed.
He sashayed.
He stumbled.
He tripped.
He marched.
He meandered.
He sneaked.
He glided.
He tromped.
He plodded.
He padded.

+ a lot of others. They all mean "walk" in one form or another, but are much more case specific.

scarletpeaches
04-22-2009, 02:00 AM
Why not say, "He walked as opposed to drove?"

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 02:02 AM
He walked.

Sure, you might say you want the walking to seem more current, but 'he was this' and 'he was that' all the time isn't showing; it's telling.


"He was walking" is okay, but doesn't convey much in the sense of tone, unless you're saying "He was walking as opposed to driving."

He walked.
He clomped.
He tiptoed.
He sauntered.
He prissed.
He sashayed.
He stumbled.
He tripped.
He marched.
He meandered.
He sneaked.
He glided.
He tromped.
He plodded.
He padded.

+ a lot of others. They all mean "walk" in one form or another, but are much more case specific.

I think I wasn't being clear. I'm talking imperfect form: He was walking when the cat attack him, etc.

Cyia
04-22-2009, 02:02 AM
Why not say, "He walked as opposed to drove?"

Sometimes it doesn't fit the rhythm of the rest of the piece. Especially in dialogue.

"It took him an hour to get to the store, of course he was walking instead of driving."

scarletpeaches
04-22-2009, 02:03 AM
If we're talking dialogue, all bets are off because of course, people don't speak in 'proper' English. The author should, but the characters have no obligation to do so.

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 02:08 AM
If we're talking dialogue, all bets are off because of course, people don't speak in 'proper' English. The author should, but the characters have no obligation to do so.

Lol I don't think "He was walking" is improper English. It's just the English version of the Spanish Imperfect form (though I don't think we call it that). I dunno if other countries have imperfect forms, but I think most of the romantic ones do...

Mr Flibble
04-22-2009, 02:10 AM
I'm usually good about "that" -- I never write "she thought that", or "he believed that", etc. But I just searched for it and found 472! Seems I use it a bunch in terms like "that afternoon." Somebody do me a favor and let me know how many THATs they have in their book.... (again, mine's YA, at 65k)



Welcome! :)


If you can take 'that' out of a sentence and it still makes sense..take it out.

That afternoon would probably have to stay, but something like 'He hoped that here he could...' would still make sense as 'He hoped here he could'

I am also a bugger for having too many sentences starting with 'there was' in first draft. Too telly, not showy. There's almost always a better way of showing it.

As for 'he was walking' - are you in past tense? Then 'he walked' makes more sense.

Bryan M Stephenson
04-22-2009, 02:14 AM
thanks Wandergirl, you have saved me hours. and to contribute to the actual thread

40,000 word WIP

been - 100
some - 124
had - 440 Don't know if this is a bad one or not
that - 398

i always try to get them in edit. But boy getting a total right there on the screen is disheartening.

MetalDog
04-22-2009, 02:16 AM
yWriter will tell you how much you used each and every word, by the look of it.

Top ranking in my 63447 word thingy:
The with a cracking 3138
To a long second at 1911
And in third place with 1546

The only one in the big numbers that worries me is was at 882. That looks like trouble, yesiree.

Not found much use for yWriter beyond that, mind =D

wandergirl
04-22-2009, 02:21 AM
That afternoon would probably have to stay, but something like 'He hoped that here he could...' would still make sense as 'He hoped here he could'


When writing in the past tense, I think I tend to say "That day, ___" instead of "Today,___". Maybe I'll scan for that and see if I can replace some of them.

ETA: I lied, I only have 2 "that day"s. hmm.

Bukarella
04-22-2009, 02:21 AM
I have too many "shrugged", and I'm not sure what to do about all the tears I have coming... I worry it might be too much crying. :Shrug:

A word I will definitely have to take care of during editing stage is "shuttle". I bet no one else has that problem. heh!

Mr Flibble
04-22-2009, 02:23 AM
A word I will definitely have to take care of during editing stage is "shuttle". I bet no one else has that problem. heh!

Shuttle? At least it's original! I used to have a problem with 'gouts' as in gouts of blood etc. Far, far too many.

wandergirl
04-22-2009, 02:33 AM
Another problem I face is describing my MC's reactions in varied ways. She's 14, self-conscious, often nervous, and easily embarrassed. In early drafts, so much was going on with her stomach (my stomach knotted), and throat (I swallowed hard) she probably seemed like she had some kind of disease.

lol at both "shuttle" and "gouts". I can safely say I used neither in my novel.

Bukarella
04-22-2009, 04:04 AM
Shuttle? At least it's original! I used to have a problem with 'gouts' as in gouts of blood etc. Far, far too many.

Yup. Shuttle. My characters are temporarily living on a shuttle, and I can't come up with another word for it. Ugh!

unicornjam
04-22-2009, 04:41 AM
"A little" and "maybe."

Ctairo
04-22-2009, 05:10 AM
I don't seem to be a serial abuser. Words like "was" pop up, but I wonder how many uses tip the scale beyond "acceptable use"?

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 05:19 AM
I don't seem to be a serial abuser. Words like "was" pop up, but I wonder how many uses tip the scale beyond "acceptable use"?

Ah!!!! There's nothing wrong with was, as long as it's not passive!!!!

Was gets such a bad rap around here...

JamieB
04-22-2009, 05:27 AM
Mine is smiled. He smiled. She smiled. They both smiled. Everyone smiles....sometimes they grin. Every time I type it my fingers burn. Well, they don't but it would be helpful if they did. Maybe they make little collars for fingers like they have for the invisible dog fences.

I'd be getting shocked all the time.

RunawayScribe
04-22-2009, 08:54 AM
I like the word 'lull' anytime there's a silence. I have to force myself to go back and phrase a lot of the moments differently.

Izz
04-22-2009, 09:44 AM
I have a problem with 'looked', or variations of.

And a couple weeks ago i just finished reading a book where the characters eyes were always 'flashing'.

Her eyes flashed excitement.

And not just flashed - snapping, sparked, smoldering, blazed, shone, darkened, eyes were hard, flinty; to name a few. It drove me bananas.

Grebbsy
04-22-2009, 11:34 AM
"He was walking" is okay, but doesn't convey much in the sense of tone, unless you're saying "He was walking as opposed to driving."

He walked.
He clomped.
He tiptoed.
He sauntered.
He prissed.
He sashayed.
He stumbled.
He tripped.
He marched.
He meandered.
He sneaked.
He glided.
He tromped.
He plodded.
He padded.

+ a lot of others. They all mean "walk" in one form or another, but are much more case specific.

You missed out James Blish's famous example, "he polevaulted".

Actually, that was supposedly a tortured way of avoiding 'he said'. (Sadly I can't find an online link to Blish's essay on said-bookisms, but it's in the collection of essays THE ISSUE AT HAND as by William Atheling Jr).

thethinker42
04-22-2009, 01:22 PM
Well, I was recently guilty of using a certain 4-letter word over 500 times in an 80,000 word manuscript...

Otherwise, my problem areas are personal pronouns, "of", "was", "against", "as", "to", etc. The usual suspects.

motormind
04-22-2009, 04:41 PM
The word "just". But it's easy to find and get rid of, so I just don't sweat it.

talcon811
04-22-2009, 07:36 PM
I have a problem with 'looked', or variations of.


I have a problem with looked or glanced too. 'Was' and 'had been' are also problems, but I think caught most of them. I also have a problem with sighed or sighing.

Maple
04-22-2009, 09:04 PM
Looked and glanced are problems for me, too. I also use 'as' way too much. And there are probably more that I can't think of at the moment.

Phaeal
04-22-2009, 09:05 PM
Sigh. I won't bother to defend the past progressive once again. If some people had their way, to be would no longer be, and Hamlet wouldn't have any choice.

For some reason, I used the verb "jerk" way too much in my current WIP. This has been corrected in the third draft.

I will now count down the seconds to a salacious response to paragraph two. ;)

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 09:12 PM
Sigh. I won't bother to defend the past progressive once again. If some people had their way, to be would no longer be, and Hamlet wouldn't have any choice.

For some reason, I used the verb "jerk" way too much in my current WIP. This has been corrected in the third draft.

I will now count down the seconds to a salacious response to paragraph two. ;)

That's what it's called! Thank you! I kept calling it the imperfect...

wandergirl
04-22-2009, 10:09 PM
That's what it's called! Thank you! I kept calling it the imperfect...

Grammatically, "When he was walking across the street, a lion devoured him" has a different shade of meaning than "When he walked across the street, a lion devoured him." The tense you'd choose would depend on the context. That might not be the best example, but you know what I mean.

Part of the Treachery of Was is that much of the time, overuse of "was/to be" signals passive voice:

"There was a man who was devoured by a lion, who had been underfed for months by a cruel zookeeper."

Delhomeboy
04-22-2009, 10:22 PM
Grammatically, "When he was walking across the street, a lion devoured him" has a different shade of meaning than "When he walked across the street, a lion devoured him." The tense you'd choose would depend on the context. That might not be the best example, but you know what I mean.

Part of the Treachery of Was is that much of the time, overuse of "was/to be" signals passive voice:

"There was a man who was devoured by a lion, who had been underfed for months by a cruel zookeeper."

I know. That's what I've been trying to say. I think we've become so afraid of the passive voice that "was" has become an anathema, which it's not. "Was" has a lot more uses than passivity.

DMarie84
04-22-2009, 11:05 PM
But, suddenly, apparently, suddenly, rather, very, quite

And probably others that I haven't found...

Izz
04-23-2009, 12:35 AM
Oh yeah - a little while ago i picked up that i kept using 'grunted'.

He grunted. "Past progressive tense is no biggie."