My Favorite Words

Every writer has them, those words that seem to get used over and over and over again. Sometimes they’re big, shiny words that stick out like a sore thumb, but more typically they’re everyday sorts of words — your workhorse vocabulary — that sneak their way into your prose and make it sound lackluster through repetition.

You don’t need to be writing a novel to face this problem. Any piece of writing can fall victim to favorite-words syndrome, and any type of writer, from bloggers to journalists to short-story authors. The key is to be aware of the problem and, when you’re going through to revise, be sure to check carefully for overuse of those words in particular.

Young adult author Justine Larbalestier blogged recently about her own frequently used words, and she actually made a list of her personal culprits for reference. Looking through her list, I can see a few of my own offenders. I’m constantly going back through my writing and culling out “just” and “suddenly” and a few others. Plus I’ve my own list, of course.

Next time you’re revising, pay attention to your own frequently used words, especially those you could delete entirely. “That” is one you can cut half the time, for instance. If you find yourself shaking your head over your repetition, try making a list of words that show up particularly often and hang it over your desk as a reminder to keep an eye out for them on future projects. It’s amazing how much removing a few words can liven up your writing.

9 thoughts on “My Favorite Words

  1. For some reason I feel the need to modify every other verb with up (sit up, stand up, etc.) or – alternatively – down. There are others and like Justine I have a list of usual offenders. When I start editing I do a search on the words from my list and try to remove or replace as appropriate. It’s an extremely useful tool.

    1. You have to love technology. So much easier to search for things than in the written-by-hand days.

  2. Lol I had to get my thesaurus out to substitute others words for “just” and “only” because I can’t seem to stop using them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many words to replace them. “Suddenly” I knew about a long time ago and had my thesaurus out for that too. Oo! I just had an idea for one change for that word! I’ll have to go write that down before I forget it. Hehe

    1. Try eliminating the word entirely. It’s not always a question of needing a replacement. Sometimes you’re just adding in extraneous words and you can tighten things up instead.

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