If I had to describe myself, it would be in a word that has many meanings with a complexity which falls off the tongue.
A word made up of many elements, is deceptive in appearance, and creates an illusion from the imagination.
My word would be Phantasmagoric. ~Summer Ross

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Word to the writer "Polish"

Before I get to this series, I have to say something~ ALL OF YOU rock my world! The blogfest yesterday was Fantastic. So many great new lines! So many participated. Thank you all so Fairy much for sharing this experience with me.

Ahem...now back to today's post :)

Yes you might have heard of some of these, but perhaps not all of them, and definitely not my take on them.

When I critique someones story or paper there is always a first step-
 I start with words.


 Sometimes it is difficult to get to the idea of someones writing whether it be an English essay or a  story from a fellow writer. Words clutter pages, sometimes too many words, sometimes not enough.
 Usually too many. So the first thing I do is look for these 9 words in their entire piece:
 was, it, then, and, that, feel, got, very, and just.


 These words are on my top nine scratch out list. Here is what I know about these words from countless English classes and critique groups.


Was -  use this word sparingly. If "was" is used too often, it defeats the purpose. Scratch "was" out wherever you can. Often sentences can be reworded to eliminate "was" and then you will have a stronger sentence. There is only one use I have found that this word is used satisfactory with - metaphors. If you have used a metaphor and "was" is included, then keep it. If you would like more detail on this word check out one of my previous posts for ideas: Action packed


It - This word is used best as a reference word, referring back to an idea or object. This word should also be used sparingly. Watch how many times you use it and really examine if the word "it" is needed to convey your idea or thoughts. Take "it" out where you cannot justify the use.


Then - Many times writers and students use "then" as a transition word. Problem is sometimes it is a filler word and is weak with its meaning. This word should be cut out when "then" refers to time, location, or list characteristics. Basically if you have started a sentence with "Then" and the sentence can stand alone without the word in it, take it out. (further information at the bottom of the page)


And - The biggest issue I have seen with this word is starting a sentence with "And." Starting a sentence with "and" is a common mistake in early writing stages. Put two sentences together if you must use "And", but most often just cut it out if your sentence begins with "and" then replace it with a different word if you need to.

That - This word is a filler word. Use with cation. Most of the time you can easily cut this word from the sentence without having to reword. "That" is unneeded in writing and I know we as writers can come up with something better if we need to in order to make or work show through better.


Feel - Many fiction writers know this word is not a good word to use to describe a feeling. It tells instead of shows. Take out any "feel" or "felt" words from your writing and instead describe what is being felt to improve your writing.


Got - This word is nondescript. It shows nothing and tells nothing. Take it out- it serves no purpose in writing.


Very - simply take it out unless you have an extreme circumstance that the word is strictly needed. Its a modifier for other words, but isn't really a value. (further information at the bottom of this page)


Just - This word is nine time out ten unneeded. "Just" is a filler word, take it out and move forward.


In our normal everyday lives we talk with these words, but that does not mean we should use them in our writing. If you have dialogue where a character talks using these words, okay leave them, but ultimately they botch up what you are writing instead of making it look good or giving something to what you have written.


If you would like more to look at on words to avoid, take a look at this site for further information: www.tameri.com


Tune in next Thursday for the second installment of this series called "Shine" where I will discuss more word usage and action usage.

29 comments:

LTM said...

it's hard to give a good critique when you're having to do line edits. It's so so true. I think it helps if writers can be their own copy editors, but if they can't they need to find someone for that and THEN go for critiques... just my 2 cents~ ;p <3

Laura Eno said...

Great post to remind us when these words should go.

Elena Solodow said...

"That" and "Just" are the easiest to sneak in, cause they usually go hand-in-hand with trying to have voice. But yes, they're a no-no.

Quinn said...

Great first installment! Really well done!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the checklist!

Summer Ross said...

LTM~ Actually I like Line editing other peoples work- I can easily spot mistakes with line by line and line edits are common in my crit group. If writers know what to look for then it will be easier for them to edit by line for themselves.

Laura~ Thank you.

Elana- You are right the do go hand in hand

Quinn~ Thank you

Summer Ross said...

Alex~ you're welcome

Carolyn V. said...

That's a great list!!! I also use when and that's just a telling word. I always have to clean that word out. =)

Summer Ross said...

Carolyn~ that's a great word to point as well thank you.

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome list! I'm a big feeler...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good list! I remember my biggest battle in the early days - 'was.' I had a slogan - Stop the WASes!

N. R. Williams said...

It was very interesting reading this post. And that is just the thing. LOL

Did you get the humor? Okay, the serious side. The list is an excellent way to self edit. I believe all writers should keep these words handy in a word.doc just for that purpose.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

gideon 86 said...

You nailed it.... lol

Summer I had a great time in your blogfest yesterday.... such fun.


Michael

The Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the list! I'll have to refer back to this post . . .

Clarissa Draper said...

This is a great list and what a person editing their book can do is find and replace.
CD

Nicki Elson said...

A word search can reveal all sorts of shocking things, can't it? These are nine great words to keep on a short list to check for. Do you know something I learned recently though? It's not incorrect to begin a sentence w/ "and" or "but." I wish I could lay my hands on the damn thing that explained that, but apparently if you go back historically and look, it's something that's always been done and is acceptable - but as with everything else, don't overdo it.

I like what you say about finding a better way to say thing - always a fun exercise for writers.

E. Arroyo said...

This is great info!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Thanks for the useful link to the words we need to erase from manuscripts. I hate the Word Finder tool. ;)

Jules said...

and now I feel like I have learned something. :) Your series will be most useful for this hillbilly :)
You are going to have a category in your column so I can find these again, right? :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Summer Ross said...

Nicki- true, using "and" is not exactly wrong, but neither are using a whole bunch of commas. The point isn't so much as to what it says historically as to what early writers should avoid. Its like learning all the rules first then learning how to break them all later. In academic writing, "and" is a really big NO NO. In fiction writing, "and" is easier to avoid and make the piece flow better.

Mysti said...

Absolutely agree. Great post! Still have to go back and weed out unnecessary words, though I think I'm getting better at catching them the first time around :)

B.E.T. said...

Dang o.o Got and Just are two of the words I use the most, wow! Now I know what to ex out in my editing stages at the moment on my WIP... Thanks! :D

Jessica Lei said...

Ohh, don't forget about "really." I also think "went" or "got" can be weak verbs as well and replacing them would do a sentence some good.

Great list, though! I've been meaning to CTRL+F someo f these words on my ms for awhile, but I'm scared what I'll find!

Donna Hole said...

A good list.

......dhole

Summer Ross said...

Jessica- Those words too! thanks for the input!

Corey said...

I would like to stop by and say hello, and thank you also! you may or may not know it, but google analytics tells me that you are sending a lot of traffic to my site. not sure why or how, but i appreciate it none the less :) i will be following you from now on and commenting often ;)

Hannah Kincade said...

Great reminders! These words are included in my line edit guide that I created for myself, so so helpful!

Gina Blechman said...

So very true. This takes me back to my highschool days where, after every paper we wrote, the teacher would then say: "now take out your papers, read through them, and circle every "it" and every "feel" and go back and make sure you don't absolutely need them!" As Hannah said, these are great reminders. No matter how often I write, I still find some of these popping up WAY more than I would like. :-)

Susan Kane said...

Good observations, and good reminders to make our writing 'tight', eliminating garbage. Good job.

I heart comments~~ You all Rock my world!

Make your own