Thursday, February 21, 2013

Words to Avoid

Today I will leave you with the last of my little lessons:What words to avoid and stronger verbs. I want to say one of the most important things you should do while in the middle of revisions is 'read aloud'. It is amazing how different it sounds when you actually hear it, as apposed to reading it to yourself. You can spot a lot more mistakes, especially if you are telling instead of showing.

Basic grammar and punctuation are important, but so are the topics I have touched on the last few posts. Also, another great feature on your computer is  find and replace. This is a good way to see how many of the words I list on here you are using in your manuscript. These are called 'Garbage Words'. They are typically used for fillers, and can slow down the text. A lot of them you can either delete, or replace. 

Really                 Very
So                      That
Well                   And then
Totally                Just
Quite                  Good
Great                  Like

And, there is one word that should only be used once or twice in your entire manuscript: Suddenly

The reason why I say to avoid these words, is they tend to be involved with telling, instead of showing. There are other words you can use, and will generally lead you to explaining, instead of saying. 

Like, is one of those words that is misused in most American books. If you like something, that is one thing, if you are explaining something and use 'like', then it is incorrect.

Example: He looks like he knew the answer.

The proper way would be: He looked as if he knew the answer.

In this instance, 'like' should be replaced with as if, or as though. 

Another list of words that a lot of times you can either delete, or change the sentence structure are conjunctions in the beginning of sentences.

For                     And
Nor                     But
Or                      Yet

Do a find to look for these words at the start of your sentences. There are times where they fit, but other times you probably don't need them.

Last, but not least, are verbs. Yes, we have to have them, but there are times you want to use stronger ones to avoid passive voice. Dangling participles are one of the types of words you want to watch. 'Ing words' such as walking, are passive, and if you can change the sentence so that you don't have to have them, then do. Of course, you will have 'ing' words, but within certain places, they should be avoided. Such as, action scenes. 

There are places in your novel that you want to look for redundant actions too, such as 'nod', or 'sat, or even, 'down'. These words can be passive also, or boring if you use them too much. 

Use your thesaurus, that's what it's there for. Try to replace verbs typically used, for stronger, more aggressive ones. Also, it will broaden your vocabulary. 

Well, that's it for this subject. I could go on, but I think most of you get the idea. I know there are a lot of other creative writing topics I could discuss, but  I don't want to bore you with too many blog posts on this subject. I just wanted self-published author's to think about their manuscript before you put it out there for the world to see. I believe that if our work is exceptional, it will reflect, as does when it's not up to par.

Thanks for putting up with my little lessons, and I hope that at least it helped some of you. I hope all of you have a great weekend and don't forget to leave a comment, I would love to know you thoughts on these two subjects.

Love, Lisa


  1. Lisa,

    We've discussed much of this, but it's a good post, and good reminder to all of us.


  2. Thanks Sunni! And yes we have, but it's always good reminders for when we are in the thick of revisions!

  3. The word "like" in the usage above ("He skipped down the path like he was a jack rabbit") is correct. It's a simile. Similes are like metaphors (oh look, a simile), only they use like or as rather than simply naming something as its comparison (e.g., "She was like a rose" versus "She was a rose").

    Like, you must recall, is an adverb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, verb, interjection ("I was like, you can't do that"), and noun. It has many uses. I can't say I like it as an interjection, but that's the nature of language. Language evolves (or, one might argue, devolves). Does that mean you should use it that way in your writing? Absolutely not. Word choice is up to the author. Informal usages (such as its use as an interjection) are best left for dialogue. But similes (like as a preposition or conjunction) are still technically formal uses.

    1. You know I thought about it when I wrote the sentence, and since I was hurrying though, a left it alone. I should have looked into it more, I know there was something not right. Thanks for that. I did change it, but I'm not sure if it's a good example or not. Anyway, thanks for pointing out my blonde moment.

    2. The new one is now treating like as a preposition where it means "as if" or "as though" and is thus still correct. Like has over a dozen definitions, and I think just about any usage you put up here will be correct usage. The only misuse I can think of is not so much misuse as it is overuse, and that would be the use of like as an interjection ("It was like so cold outside that I like ...").

      I have a suspicion that the misuse of like has become so accepted that its "misuses" have been included in the dictionary.

      If anyone happens to be a grammarian, they can feel free to correct me. I'm curious now, since I'm seeing some sites that state a certain usage is wrong, but when I examine the word on Merriam-Webster, its various definitions suggest that it is in fact correct.

  4. I am just in awe about how frequently you post with substantive information. I can only manage it once a week.
    It's one thing to use those words out of habit in an early draft, and quite another to use some of them intentionally to show character or quirkiness or whatever. Even starting a sentence with "but" might work sometimes if it's how a character speaks or if the author wants to come across with an informal voice. Most of the time, though, I agree with you on your list.

    1. Thanks Jagoda, and yes, I see it all the time. Not that the author is doing it on purpose, just that he/she probably hasn't had it pointed out. It was a 'ah ha' moment for me lol!

  5. Good Lord Lisa,

    I've been searching for this list on your blog for two hours and finally found it! I knew you posted it last year, but couldn't remember exactly when. I want to utilize this in my revising. The rest of you guys are probably watching the Super Bowl.

    If you don't mind, I'm going to link back to this post on my blog because it's good info. I assume that's okay with you.


    1. Sorry about that Sunni! i forgot you wanted me to send you this! At least your very familiar with my blog now lol! ;-)