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9 Words to Get Rid of in Your Writing

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9 Words to Get Rid of in Your Writing

Well, it’s Memorial Day, and Paul and I were going to go sailing, but I’m sick with a sore throat and an achy body and an all-around pitiful demeanor.  I’m very annoyed.  It seems like I’m always getting sick with these dinky colds that aren’t the worst thing in the world, but they also make me feel like doing nothing but laying around in my pajamas.

“Why do you keep getting sick?” Paul asked me.  “Are you eating your own poop or something?”

I’m definitely not eating my poop.  I blame the elementary school children I work with, but honestly, I try not to touch those adorable little germ bags.

I’m not sure why I’m sick, but I’m going to try to still be somewhat productive while I am.  My plan is that while I’m laying around in my pajamas, I will polish up one of my novels before sending out some query letters.  Since I was feeling too yucky to write a new entry for today, I am posting an old one, originally from April 2013.  These reminders will be helpful as I polish my novel, and hopefully they will be helpful to you, too.


1. just – I just can’t get enough of this word and just can’t seem to stop using it in my writing. Usually I just have to go through and cut out all the justs. Usually “just” just isn’t needed.

2. that – Example: She dropped the necklace down the front of her shirt so that the charm rested between her breasts. Do we really need “that”? Take it out and see how it sounds.

3. said – I’m all for making it clear who says what. But if it’s already clear, cut the dialog tag. This is especially easy to do when there’s already an action associated with the speaker. For example, change this: “You’re insane,” Diane said, backing away to “You’re insane.” Diane backed away.

4. can – Instead of I can hear the crows cawing outside my window or I can feel my breakfast churning in my gut, how about I hear the crows cawing and I feel my breakfast churning. OR even better, The crows caw outside my window and My breakfast churns inside my gut. You see how much tighter that is?

5. seem – Instead of telling how something “seems” tell us how it IS. Let us make our own judgments.

6. suddenly – In stories everything is always happening without warning. Suddenly the door burst open. Suddenly she turned to me and kissed me. 95% of the time, you can cut the suddenly.

7. am, was, were – Use active, simple verb structures whenever possible. Instead of We were standing next to the statue write We stood next to the statue.

8. really, very – Unless they’re really very necessary.

9. haughtily, forcefully, demonically and other adverbs – As much as I love the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling had a serious case of adverb-itis. So don’t do it the J.K. way. Show us that someone is haughty or forceful by their words and actions.

This is the pitiful face I make when I'm sick.

This is the pitiful face I make when I’m sick.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

3 responses »

  1. Hope you get better soon! 🙂

  2. This is great–posting on my FB page. Get well . . . pronto!

  3. Hope you feel better! And thanks for the tips. 🙂


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