This is the final chapter of the Write Tight series. I wonder how it will end!
Your Favorite Words
Way back in Life 1.0, my husband gave many conference talks as part of his VP responsibilities. After doing so for a long while – well practiced by now – a particular conference offered him a transcript of his speech. He read it. He discovered that his favorite word was “actually”, which he used waaaaay more frequently than he realized.
Most of us have favorite words or phrases, things we say over and over again. Words like “basically,” or “really,” or “literally,” (which often is never used correctly... ever! So stop!). Some common phrases you might hear are “you know,” “at the end of the day,” or “it is what it is.” Sometimes we say them just to keep the conversation going, or stall while our minds think of more important things to say. In other cases, you can't help but say them – they've become part of your lexicon along the way, and it takes a herculean effort to eliminate them.
Guess what! You have favorite words in your writing, too.
After reading a rough draft of my newest book my husband asked why I love eyebrows. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Everyone moves their eyebrows.” Sure enough, when I did a global search on my text, "eyebrow" or “eyebrows” were in almost every chapter! I used it once:
Upon hearing my scheme he raised his eyebrows.
Apparently, I thought that was pretty clever. Next thing I knew (as it turned out, I didn't know), everyone was raising their eyebrows, cocking an eyebrow, lifting an eyebrow … in surprise or shock or ... whatever!
Sometimes, a word gets used repeatedly in a single scene. It's not that you lack creativity, it's just that you were so engaged in writing, you didn't review what you'd already written; you're madly trying to get this all down.
For example, while reading a chapter in my writer's group, the author described a fight scene on horseback. As readers, we were immersed with the action (swords flashing, opponents dodging), but it all happened with a “horse” (“he used his horse to dodge the blow”, “The horse shied from the clatter”). Once that was pointed out, it was trivial to find synonyms to suit her needs (“steed,” “stallion,” “mare,” “bay,” and on and on). She just needed fresh eyes.
Given you wrote the book odds are you won't be aware of your own favorite words, even if you edit it yourself. Such edits are best done with some poor unwitting soul you've drafted to read your manuscript. Have them notice if there are words or phrases you use – and reuse – a little too often. Once you have such a list, do a global search.
And keep that list for every book or story you write from then on!
The Write Tight Recap:
The Write Tight Recap:
- Watch the verb "to be"
- Watch for sentences that start with "and" ... like the one above!
- Watch for your favorite mega-used words
These small steps will immediately change the way you write, and all for the better.