Word Search 2

Last month I posted on my own blog about Overused Words, finding those buzzards, and whacking them out.  I think it was Kathryn Jane who suggested perhaps this would make a good topic for our SOS blog. So, here we go with some repetition, but also new material.

As I worked on the last parts of editing for ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series (which will be my 6th published book has now gone to my editor. WhooHoo!), I bore down on searching out overused words.

My original list of 45 words came from Margie Lawson, an awesome writing teacher. She’s the first person who suggested to me perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. My list has grown to approximately 75 words and phrases. As I used Margie’s list, I stumbled on new words I overused in different books.

I don’t remember which book, but, Sounds good… or Sounds like…became my favorites and I used those words 150 times. In my recent search of ACT OF BETRAYAL, I didn’t use the phrase at all. 0 Times. Rewarding, I’m telling you.

img_4901There is, There are, There’s are commonly over used phrases. I had a total of 25 combined and reduced them to 5. Why don’t we want to use those words? Because this phrasing “There are sweet smelling flowers in the garden.” isn’t as active as saying “Flowers fill the garden with their sweet scent.”

Here are other commonly overused words:

well, somewhat, mused, a bit/a little, in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact, and so on and so forth, watch, see, gave, although, almost, some, however, and somewhat.

I didn’t use any of these words in ACT OF BETRAYAL, though I used to generously sprinkle them throughout my books. After checking the word search, I take great pride in writing a zero by the word on my list. Do you wonder why I leave them on the list if I’ve stopped using them? Partly because of the good feeling I get when the zero pops up and partly because I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.

What about words while I’m writing get by me?

So went from 180 to 37

That went from 340 to 69. In previous books, I had improved on the overuse of this word but for some reason, I went back to using the word in grammatically correct phrases, but where the word isn’t needed. Here’s an example from the third paragraph above: She’s the first person who suggested perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. I originally wrote the sentence this way:  She’s the first person who suggested that perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. As I typed, I backed up and removed “that.” One of those grammatically correct usages, but not necessary for a reader to get the content.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]

I’ve improved on many overused words.

Really only showed up 27 times. I got it down to 9. I wrote very 27 times and got it to 1. My most favorite word is just. I think, breath and speak this word. Even consciously working to keep it out, it showed up 155 times. I reduced just to 9 times. “Sometimes” you “just” “really” need to use “just.” LOL

Headed and pushed were both 27 and went to 5 & 4. I’ve cut back significantly on these words. I use “headed” for a car or a person moving.

How do I do the switch. I delete the word, but more often I find a substitute or a totally different way of saying what I mean.  Here are examples from ACT OF BETRAYAL:

Do you want to come by?” Would you like to come by?

So, what is it you don’t want me to know, Mom?” What are you afraid for me to find out, Mom? (I’d used want 154 times in the ms! Got it down to 53.)

She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and slid on her reading glasses. She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and popped on her reading glasses. Slid went from 32 to 6.

A tear slipped out of one eye and slid down her cheek. A tear slipped out of one eye and trickled down her cheek. (Slid and slipped are almost interchangeable. One of the issues to watch for is changing one overused word for another.)

We’ll be eating in a few minutes. We’ll be eating in less than five minutes. Few went from 32 to 11.

She grabbed her purse… She slung her purse over her shoulder.

She grabbed hold of the back of the nearest chair… She reached for the back of the nearest chair, missed…

Devon let go of Brett’s arm, making an attempt to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she grabbed hold again. Devon let go of Brett’s arm, attempting to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she clutched his arm again.

I’m getting my ID. I’m reaching for my ID.

Are we getting close? How close are we?

No getting out of this. No avoiding this.

I love the word “getting.”! LOL

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00008]

Why do we fall into the habit of using these words? When we begin, we’re writing the story, “getting” it on the screen. Then we rewrite and fix story line issues. Using, just, very, few…these are all ways we talk in everyday life, but reading these words slow down the story. As writers, it’s important to keep readers turning those pages.

Do you have favorite words you use a lot? Have any of you used, “you know,” the great filler from the 70s. If you’re an author do you do a word search like this? As a reader, are these things you notice when reading? If you’d like a copy of my 75 words and phrases, let me know and I’ll send you one. Love to hear from you.

4 Years ago on July 29 my first book released. In honor of that anniversary, I’m running a 99 Cent Sale for both VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. Appreciate your sharing the news. 

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Marsha, Excellent post! I use the Search and Replace key to find and capitalize my “filler” words. And then I ruthlessly go through the manuscript making substitutions. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Joanne. I kind of like that part of editing. It’s so concrete and I get a feeling of accomplishment when I get the number down. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, Joanne. I’m in the middle of doing exactly that per the publisher’s copy edits. Until someone pointed it out it was easy to overlook them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Marian. I think it’s easy to overlook because we know what we want to say and we read over knowing how it’s supposed to sound. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brain is muddled, I meant to say great post, Marsha.


      2. marsharwest says:

        LOL Not a problem, Marian. I’ve done the same thing. 🙂


  3. vicki says:

    I love this topic, Marsha! And here’s why: I search for those words and use fresher writing which is a very good thing. I use Wordcounter.com. Feed the passage into it and a list spits out of how many times a word is used. Now, I’ve become used to searching for particular words–that, just–and deal with them up front.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Vicki. I think Terry ODell uses something like that to help search out the words. I’m sure I’ve got others I’m not aware of, so I should probably check this out. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  4. Excellent post, Marsha, as always. I’ll be getting my edits from my publisher in a couple of weeks. When I read on FB you were doing the word search, I started checking my manuscript before I turned it in. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Susan. Sometimes an editor doesn’t catch these, Susan, so it’s good you did your own search. Such a good feeling to send off the ms. Congrats. And thanks for stopping by.


  5. I’m bad for using ‘like’ and ‘but’ way too much, lol. Great post, Marsha. I’m adding your list to mine 🙂
    Love Joanne’s tip to capitalize the filler words instead of deleting them. The first time I did that I ended up with some pretty interesting looking words, lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Jacquie. LOL Yeah, it doesn’t work to just delete the words. You have to go through each highlighted one to see what the situation is. I confused the daughter’s name with one from another book and I did a search and replace, but had forgotten to put a space at the front end of the name, boy did that lead to some odd stuff! To top that off, I used the wrong name anyway and had to do it again. 🙂 The joys of editing. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. marsharwest says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. Appreciate the reblog. 🙂


  6. Kathryn Jane says:

    Great post, Marsha!
    I have a big list like you, and spend hours/days going through my manuscripts searching for those troublesome words. “So” is one of my worst, as well as just, pull, smile, little, pretty…… 😀

    One day I’ll break down and use a software program to do the legwork for me, but in the meantime, I think my own searched make the words stand out for me, and therefore I’m less likely to use them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Kathryn. Going through the ms this way really breaks it down so you can see other things while you’re doing the search. I can’t tell you how many times, I found phrases that made me think, ehhh! Can’t it do that better? Or what did I mean?
      I see those when I look at little pieces. Kind of like when we would do the 1 Line Wed line for KOD. It’s just good to look at the ms piecemeal and not as the whole thing. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. 🙂


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