Sunday, January 24, 2010

Editing: Using Words Too Often

My editor returned Mistletoe Everywhere for edits. She didn't make that many changes, which means that I sent in a pretty clean copy, but every manuscript can use some improvement.

As I reread the story, I found that I use some words too often.

I didn't see them when I wrote the manuscript. Probably a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. But now, all those repeats glare back at me.

No one will notice "a", "and" or "the", no matter how many times you repeat them. Nor will they notice pronouns or "he said" or "she said", although you should use those tags as little as possible.

I'm talking about words like "turn", "face", "head", "place", and "look". Aarg! Using them once in a page is fine, but using them in two succeeding sentences is a no-no.

I search in Microsoft Word (my manuscript is a Word file) and write down the pages of all the occurrences of each word. Then I go back and rewrite sentences where these troublesome words occur too close together. And, lo and behold, the sentences sound better.

Ah, editing. What a wonderful process.

Thank you all,


Anonymous said...


I'm glad your editor's so happy with your ms. :-)

Using the same words is one thing I'm fussy about when I edit my chapters even before I submit them to my critique group. Still, there always seem to be some words sneaking through the net. lol

Usually, I'm good at spotting them in other writers' work but I sometimes think however often you read your own, you're still likely to overlook some. Argh!

Happy editing!

Linda Banche said...

Hi Steph, thanks. I agree, it's hard to see the words we repeat. We're too close to the story. We can but try.

I was looking for repeated words in "Mistletoe Everywhere" when I finished the query letter and sent it in. I remember emailing the query at 7:45 PM on a Thursday night. Fifteen minutes later, the editor replied, saying to send in the full. LOL, with an invitation like that, who was I to refuse?

Bekki Lynn said...


It seems it's never ending. I keep a list of words I've been called on before. What happens is, I tend to replace them with a word that then becomes another addition to the list. Crazy.

Like you, I think the MS can always use improvement. I find things that need more or less; even mistakes everyone missed.

I'm never satisfied.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

So close to publishing. This is the stuff of dreams, enjoy.
Happy editing and a lovely week to you.
All my very best,

Kaye Manro said...

I so agree with you, Linda. My last crit partner was really aware of overusing helper words like 'was' and 'had' too much. Other words too.

I know what you mean-- I don't think my MS is ever finished with edits. I always find things I want to change or fix. That's why I work hard on sending in a clean MS to pubs. And also why I don't rush a MS out just because I want to be published.

Linda Banche said...

Oh, yes, Bekki, I've done the same thing. I think one word fixes something, and, lo and behold, I already used that new word in the next sentence.

Hi Simone, thank you so much.

Kaye, I usually have two or three possible changes to every overused words. I leave them in the mss., and bold the one I intend to use. Until I change my mind again. *g*