Words make all the difference. It's not just what you say, but how you say it. Once a writer finishes his or her 80,000-word masterpiece, they often find the work has only begun. I recently did a rewrite that took my manuscript from 315 pages down to 265 pages long. You spent two years getting 315 pages, how do you magically reduce it by 50 pages? If you diet, you watch what you eat. If you write, you watch what you write. It's called editing.
Everybody has their weaknesses, whether it be chocolate chip cookies, or writing words that aren't helping your story. When it comes to editing there are certain words or phrases you need to cut down on, like... chocolate, ice cream, or cookies. Just kidding. But seriously, the word "like" is one of my demons. It's like I just use it here and there, then like I look down and see I've used it like five times in the same paragraph.
It's not like I'm saying like is always bad, but it's like I'm just saying you don't always want to sound like a valley girl, do you, dude? Now for the list of words, you need to watch out for to keep your story from feeling bloated.
1. Like - If this is "like" something, then it is NOT that thing. Giving accurate descriptions and using correct verbs makes reading more enjoyable.
2. Really - This is a flabby modifier. Try to do without it, or better yet try to come up with a more robust word than the one you're modifying. Example: rather than, "I'm really hungry." Try "I'm starved."
3. So - The word "So" is an unnecessary intensifier. Like the word "Like", it can become addictive. "So, what you really mean is... " would read better as, "What you mean is... "
4. Up, Down - usually these words are not needed. They tend to be redundant. For example: "I sat down on the bed." could be, "I sat on the bed." Now, if you need to "look up", that's fine. But do not say, "look up at the clouds in the sky." Just say, "Look at the clouds."
5. That - If a sentence makes sense after removing "that," delete it. For example, "This is the most amazing book that I've ever read." can be, "This is the most amazing book I've ever read."
6. Big - This is a weak adjective. Replace it with something more precise. Example, rather than "He was a big man." Try, "He was six feet tall and 250 pounds."
7. Suddenly - "Sudden" means quickly and without warning, but using the word "suddenly" slows down the action and warns your reader. Do you know what would be better? Just spit it out. Rather than saying, "Then suddenly, I heard a blood-curdling scream." Say, "I heard a blood-curdling scream."
8. Did not - This is referred to as a negative construct. Readers don't like it when you tell them what something is not. They like when you tell them what something is. Example, you could say, "The actor did not remember his lines." or, "The actor forgot his lines."
9. Said - Many writers have a divided opinion about this word, but here is my perspective. One hamburger will not kill you, but if you eat at McDonald's three times a day for 20 years... what happens is not their fault. In other words, if you have an entire page of dialog, after the original "he said, she said", let it go. The readers are smart enough to follow along without saying "said" every single time.
10. Very - In this case, nobody can explain why better than Robin Williams.
"So, avoid using the word 'very' because it's lazy. A man is not very tired, he is
exhausted. Don't use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys
-to woo women- and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won't do in your essays."
- Dead Poet Society
Are there other filler words or phrases you can do without? No doubt. These are just the most common ones I must remind myself about. While writing this article, I deleted the word "Just" half a dozen times, so I guess you could add that to the list. The thing to remember is if you become aware you use a certain word or phrase too much, so will your reader. To keep your readers turning every page as fast as they can, you need to keep up the pace. Don't use ten words when six will do. Writing a book takes endurance, motivation, and inspiration. Writing a good book takes editing.
By Tedric Garrison | Submitted On December 18, 2017
Award-winning writer/photographer Tedric Garrison has 40 years experience in both areas of expertise. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective on the Elements of Design and how they relate to photography. His photo eBook; Finding Your Creative Edge in Photography proves creativity CAN be taught. Tedric shares both his writing and photography skills at his new website: http://writephotos.weebly.com
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