Overusing words while writing: 5 times you should stop and think

Finding words to use in your writing shouldn’t be such a difficult task, considering that there are about a quarter of a million distinct English words to choose from. However, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of writing, many writers tend to form a cesspool of certain favorite words. These words aren’t overly grand or alluring, yet they are sprinkled lavishly, and reappear after every few lines or paragraphs. Is the intense love for these words so great that the bewildered writer just can’t shake him or herself free from the throes of passion?

Or, is this practice more of a habit that repeats itself without the conscious knowledge of the writer. It could be the curse of the words, or just plain writing voodoo. Whatever it is, it tends to make a story or article stale, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the writer in a very sensible light.

Here are the 5 times you should stop and think.

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This is one word that is used ‘so’ many times. If you’re a ‘so’ person then you need to stop and think about this. Let me give you an example:

He was so upset with his wife, so he went to the bar so that he could drown his sadness in mugs of beer. So when his wife found out, she didn’t let him back into the house, and that was so insulting for him.    

Two sentences with five so(s) is just so annoying. The above sentences could be written in a more respectable and polished way.

He was terribly upset with his wife. This anger drove him to the bar where he could drown his sadness in mugs of beer. However, when his wife found out, she didn’t let him back into the house, and that was quite insulting for him.

As you can see, not a single ‘so’ in the above sentences, which means that you can survive without ‘so’. You’re a writer, and should be comfortable with using a thesaurus. Synonyms are definitely a blessing in a writer’s life. Also break down your long sentences into smaller and simpler sentences. That will prevent the overuse of words such as ‘so’.

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This is a really sly word, and I have succumbed to its charm many times. It just suddenly pops up out of nowhere, and makes you realize that you can’t live without its support. Every time you think of picking up the pace in your story, the first word that suddenly appears in front of your eyes is…(drum roll)… ‘suddenly’.

You know that I’ve talked about using alternative words such as synonyms. But sometimes you just have to put your foot down and say ‘NO’!

Let’s understand this with a few examples.

The car suddenly swerved at the corner.

Without any warning, the car swerved at the corner.

Suddenly, he jumped up from his chair.

As if possessed, he jumped up from his chair.

He suddenly caught hold of my arm.

His hand gripped my arm, shocking me.  

Play with your words. There are plenty to choose from. The more you can play, the more descriptive your writing will become.

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This word is another smooth operator. As sneaky as a mouse, it just cozies up to any word that’s willing to tolerate it.

You are very beautiful.

You are quite beautiful.

This is very disturbing.

This is disturbing. (You don’t always need ‘very’)

He is very sorry.

He is deeply sorry.

That is very good news.

That is wonderful news. (Get rid of ‘very’ and his buddy)

When you are in doubt about very, either get rid of it, or find another word that emphasizes its might.

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The word ‘said’ or ‘says’ is particularly overused in dialogue delivery. Obviously when you’re writing a dialogue, SOMEONE is SAYING something.

The demon said, ‘I will destroy you!’ (HAHAHAA)

When she looked into his eyes, she said, ‘I love you.’ (AWWW)

Five minutes later, he opens his eyes and says, ‘Is it Monday today?’ (WUHH…)

Can we do any better than this? Of course we can.

The demon roared, ‘I will destroy you!’

When she looked into his eyes, she spoke softly, ‘I love you.’

Five minutes later, he opens his eyes and whispered to himself, ‘Is it Monday today?’

All said and done, there’s always a way to say something without a ‘say’.

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Now that we’re here, let’s talk about ‘that’. ‘That’ is one of the most overused words in the English vocabulary. And many times, its usage is far from correct. If ‘that’ doesn’t explain what I’m saying, then ‘that’ is a shame.

Let’s look at a few examples.

This is the boy that fell from the tree. (He’s a boy! Not an apple!)

This is the boy who fell from the tree.

When he heard us say that, he stopped talking. (Say that? Say what!)

When he heard us speak, he stopped talking.

For all that she had done, we thanked her. (Throw it out! ‘That’ isn’t needed.)

For all she had done, we thanked her.

Discover new words, and read a lot to understand and imbibe different styles of writing.

I’m NO grammar guru, and NEITHER has any of the above information been documented in any manual or textbook.

But these tips have been written with a lot of experience and some common sense.

CHEERS!

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