Monday, January 12, 2009


Your story is finished. You've poured your heart and soul into it. It's ready to go to a publisher, or is it?

If you are like me, there are certain words you overuse. Words splattered throughout your manuscript that shouldn't be there. Once you are aware of this, they are easy to notice. They might even bring a grin to your face as you read your story and see those pesky words pop up everywhere in your sentences. The publishers will frown!

One of the words I overuse is just. I did a search on my latest middle grade historical fiction and the word just was everywhere.

Here is a way to find pesky words and , if necessary, delete them from your story forever.

Start at the beginning of your story and search for these words using the 'Find in this Page' tool under 'Edit'. It may take a while, but it is worth the effort.

Words or phrases to look for are:

suddenly (it is seldom needed)
The cat suddenly leaped forward. change to
The cat leaped forward

be - ing (it makes for weaker sentences)
I should be writing more. change to
I should write more.

could - would
I could see her running toward him.
I saw her running toward him. better
She ran toward him. best

there (generally weak and should be removed when possible)

seemed (use only when you want to create an image of doubt)
The fog seemed to disappear. change to
The fog disappeared.

was (and other linking verbs) try to use a stronger action verb

to be (wordiness)
She needs to be studying. change to
She needs to study.

that (a word we all overuse. Sometimes it's necessary, often it's not. Always try the sentence without it and see if it remains the same)


up, down, out (usually unnecessary if it is already implied)
She stood up. change to
She stood.
They sat down on the couch. change to
They sat on the couch.
The quilt was spread out over the bed. change to
The quilt was spread over the bed.

He filled his plate, then ate. change to
He filled his plate and ate.

began, started
He put his hands together and started to pray. change to
He put his hands together and prayed.

felt, feel (weak words can often be replaced to create a clearer image)
She felt uneasy when she stood up in front of an audience. change to
Her knees shook and her eyes twitched when she stood in front of an audience. (notice I also took out up)

instead (Often unnecessary)

What other words can you add to this list?

Have you ever did this to your manuscripts?

Any comments or ideas are more than welcome.


  1. Hi Janet,
    I've never used the 'find in this page' tool. Thanks for the advice. Maybe it'll help me in my writing!

  2. I am a "that" girl myself. I really overuse that word when I write. I always have to go back and get rid of it. I also find that I tend to use passive verbs a lot rather than action ones, so that is a big part of my editing too.


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