Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Editing 101: Removing Those Troublesome Words

Editing 101: Removing Those Troublesome Words

Ever feel like a surgeon with a scalpel when you start editing. A little cut here, a little cut there...

I judge contests from time to time and see authors sending in manuscripts that aren’t ready for publication for one reason or another. In many cases, it’s because their writing doesn’t flow. The addition of extra words will bog the reader down and cause the novel progress slowly.

When I edit my own work, I do a search for each of the following words and omit them or replace them with stronger descriptive words.

adverbs (words ending in –ly)
-ing forms of verbs
that (this words is widely overused)
it was
just, just then
was, were, is, are some, a little, some of the
tried to, proceeded to, seemed to, began to, started to
there were, there is, there are, there was
would, could, suddenly, immediately, all at once, thought, wondered, mused, knew, felt, decided
seemed, appeared, looked
could see, could hear, could smell, could taste, etc

*Use exclamation points VERY sparingly

*No back story in the first chapter at least


  1. Important stuff, for certain. I also check for 'still' and 'so'.

    Hey - just noted on your "About Me" info...June 15 is getting closer :)

  2. I love the list of words to replace. I got nailed on the word "was" in the Genesis contest. ;)

  3. I'm bookmarking this post! Great advice! (I love to use exclamation points in my blog/comments, but don't in my WIP) At least, I think...:)

  4. Very thorough list.

    Each author also has their pet words that they need to watch for frequency, too. I find mine change with each story.

  5. Thank you, much. Overuse of "That" jumps out at me.

  6. Great advise. I keep a similar list tacked on the wall above my computer.