When editing a manuscript, or any piece of writing, one of the first thing most authors look for are those words. You know the ones. The comfortable, familiar, simple words that are overused, and usually not necessary.
Mark Twain suggests replacing the word ‘very’ with ‘damn’, because the latter was far more frowned upon at the end of the nineteenth century than it is now, but to be quite frank, you can replace any of these words with any word of your choosing, and the effect will be the same.
Banana, for example, would be an effective disruption in the flow of your writing if it replaced each ‘very’. She was so very angry would convert to She was so banana angry. Easy to spot, and easy to remove with a simple click of ‘delete all’. Unless you’re writing about fruit, or monkeys, chances are, ‘banana’ has no place in your manuscript.
With that in mind, here are the top five words you should consider deleting when you’re editing your work.
These are useless words that can easily be replaced with more expressive adjectives and adverbs. For example ran really fast could be sprinted, was very angry could be was furious.
For the most part, dialogue tags in general are redundant once you’ve established who’s talking, and they make the flow of writing quite choppy. Your writing will read much easier when you allow a character’s actions to indicate who’s speaking.
This is my personal banana word. I know I use it far too much, and I try to be pretty ruthless when editing it out, especially when writing in the first person. Your reader wants to be close to the narrator, and using phrases like ‘I realized he was no longer here’ puts your reader outside the introspective. Simply saying ‘he was no longer’ here conveys the same situation, and lets the reader speculate with the narrator.
One thing your reader doesn’t want is vagueness, unless it’s pertinent to the story, of course. ‘Some’ is, by definition, a vague word, so try to avoid it, and all its derivatives like sometimes, somewhere, someone.
Also known as adverbs. Yes, you want your writing to be descriptive, you want to draw your reader in to feel the setting, not just to know it, but adverbs aren’t the way to do it. She spoke quietly allows your reader to know the character isn’t shouting, but Her soft words were barely audible in the bustling cafe offers far more insight into the setting.