How To Identify Your Crutch Words & Destroy Them Forever

While I was editing Plenilune for publication, to my chagrin, it was brought to my attention that I relied heavily on two words, & that I needed to start cutting them because they were

a:: lazy, +
b:: unhelpful

& guess what?  Because I'm such a perfectionist + it galls me to realize I've made a mistake, my two crutch words now have huge Minion sirens that go off whenever I use them - "BEE DOH.  BEE DOH.  BEE DOH."



HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR CRUTCH WORDS + DESTROY THEM FOREVER

VERY & LITTLE  ||  My two crutch words of note.  I used them all. the. time.  One might even say, very often, & not a little.  But don't, because that would be lame.

WHY ARE THESE ROTTEN?  ||  They're empty, indefinite.  They offer scant information to the reader, & as a result, the reader may (at best) ignore them or (at worst) find they bog down the narration.  Writing faux pas.

WHAT TO DO??  ||  Being as close to my writing as I am, I don't always notice when things go awry.  How am I going to notice these mistakes when I'm kind of programmed to overlook them?  HERE ARE MY TIPS.

a:: have someone (if at all possible, not yourself) read a sizable portion of your manuscript so they have an idea of which words reoccur + which shouldn't be used

b:: read it aloud (if you don't have anyone to read the manuscript for you +/or you can't stand the thought of anyone seeing your manuscript because i totally appreciate that sentiment) so your voice can catch repetitive words + bring them to your attention

c::  slow down.  think about what you're trying to say.  find the word you actually need rather than grabbing the literary equivalent of a poptart on your way out the door, late for class.

THERE'S HOPE FOR RECOVERY

Sayeth what??  Yes, it's true!  While I was tooling about on The Great Noveling Adventure blog, I came across a link to a Word Frequency Counter, & I thought, "Hey, this looks like fun + like it won't steal my manuscript, let's give it a go!"  The results were more encouraging than my pessimistic attitude expected.


I took a scene of 2,200+ words, plunked it into the counter, & this was my result!  HOO DA LALLY very + little don't even make an appearance in the entire scene!  I AM CURED.  

ARTICLES + PREPOSITIONS ARE NOT CRUTCH WORDS.  ||  The, a, of, I, + and are my top most-used words, but these are backbones to English so this is not a bad thing.  Just because a word shows up with a frequency in the hundreds does not mean you're relying on it too heavily: it could just be a staple of our language.

THE WFC ALSO LETS YOU KNOW USEFUL STUFF LIKE  ||  the fact that I (not shown) used the word "Lazarus" as a descriptive probably too many times in a scene.  It's a rare word & needs to pack its punch, not be swinging so many times that overuse renders it exhausted.  Thank you, WFC.

MY TAKE-AWAY RECOMMENDATIONS

Try this out on a scene like I did.  Scenes are semi-self-contained stories which, all together, build the entire novel; in order to make sure each brick is as solid as it can be, take them individually & check on their word frequency.  Is a key word overused?  Are building-block English words the mainstay of your scene?  Are there areas you need to polish?  This will help clue you in.

At the same time, don't be neurotic.  Yes, we all have issues + particular tendencies to literary sins, but do be gracious with yourself (this is the proverbial crab tell her proverbial son to walk straight, i know).  We all have crutch words.  It's not the end of the world.  Just do your best to figure out what your particular weakness are, & work on strengthening your manuscript around those points.

so now, take a scene + plug it into the counter.
share your results!

thank you so much for reading.
see you soon!
xoxo, jenny


2 ripostes:

  1. PET WORDS, HOW DO I LOATHE THEE. What's even harder to catch, however, are pet methods of description. I tend to overuse eyes to communicate character emotions, for instance.

    Thanks for the WFC link! I tried it out. Aside from articles, character names, and some important props in the scene, a few of my pet words were "voice," "eyes," and "smile." Told ya. I love delving into the emotions of a story, but like I said, I've got a thing for the eyes, apparently. XD

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tracey - AH HA. AH HA. AH HA. awkward laugh. ah, yes. oh dear.

    I am 100% guilty of having pet phrases of description. I think I'm getting better (maybe??), but it's still there. Ah, yes...

    ReplyDelete