Monday, February 15, 2010

Ineffective words

I use color to write. I'm currently revising/editing my story a second time, and realized that I use certain words a lot in the first pass. I'll write a chapter with some parts stream-of-consciousness style. Other parts are taken from the previous version of the chapter combined with crits received from my pals at

These are passive words when active would be better; overused or cliched words that readers and editors alike are sick of; and words that just fall flat.

When I get to the end of the chapter, I run a "find" (sometimes called "search") on certain words, one at a time. Right now I'm focusing on seven words, each a writing demon unto itself. Each word has its own color. For example, "was" is medium blue.

Whenever the computer finds the word, I change its color. Then, when I'm done with those seven, I look over the chapter for each color. There tends to be a lot of medium blue. With the computer looking for the words, I know I won't miss any. I look at each instance of the word and decide if it should be changed. This has made a big positive difference in my writing!

My Critique Circle (fondly referred to as CC) friends helped me come up with a list of words that can be overused, or are generally considered weak. Sometimes I leave the word in the chapter, sometimes I change it, but it helps to know what's considered overused or not as strong as it could be. I've included the list on the right side of the blog.

If you have suggestions for the list, do share :)


  1. The only pet peeve overused word that I don't see on your list is 'slightly'. You might also want to check 'nod/nodded' and 'shrug/shrugged'. Those two reactions are on my personal overuse list. :)

  2. Hey, you are totally right. I'm guilty of using 'slightly' more often than I care to admit! I'll add those. Thanks for catching the omissions :)