At out last Carolina Conspiracy workshop Jim and Joyce asked everyone to be mindful of words they overuse in their writing. I made a list of words I use and my list was longer than I though it would be. I ran them through search and find and was amazed at the number of unnecessary words I found in my work in progress. I decided to do a little editing as I went along so it wouldn’t be as hard when the serious editing started.
That: I knew I overused the word that, but I didn’t know how much. The best test to see if it is necessary is to say the sentence without it and see if it works. ‘She knew that the candy melted in her pocket.’ – ‘She knew the candy melted in her pocket.’ At other times the word which does as well.
Just: This word crept up everywhere in my writing. So ‘I put it near the top of this list just to remind myself not to use just so often.’ It would read better if I wrote, ‘I put it near the top of the list to remind myself not to use just so often.’ Many times the sentences are better without the word just or words like only or merely can be substituted.
Suddenly: In mysteries things happen fast and we tend to say things like, ‘Suddenly the car lurched backward,’ but it is more effective if we write ‘The car lurched backward.’
To The: Example – ‘The door to the office squeaked.’ Better- ‘The office door squeaked.’
Up & Down: These two words are often implied and are not necessary. ‘She stood’ instead of ‘She stood up.’ And ‘He sat’ instead of ‘He sat down.’
Began: ‘She picked up the pen and began to write’ is not as good as ‘She picked up the pen and wrote.’
Of the: ‘Most guys wore jeans to the party’ is better than ‘Most of the guys wore jeans to the party.’
To Be: ‘He needs to be scrubbing behind his ears’ –‘He needs to scrub behind his ears.’
Out: ‘She spread the cloth out on the picnic table’ – ‘She spread the cloth on the picnic table.’
I bet if you check your manuscript as you go, you’ll find many of these and other pet words you tend to use. The best writing tends to show up after rewriting and editing.