Hallelujah! I’m almost at the end of my latest round of novel revisions.
And once I’m done with the substantive revisions, I’m going to try something new — a Microsoft Word “search” for superfluous words.
Noodling around in the manuscript, I’ve noticed that there are certain words that add little or no value. Sometimes they are “hedge” words that undercut what I’m saying. Other times they state the obvious. Or they are just a flabby cliche.
I don’t notice these words when I’m writing a first draft; they roll easily off my pen. They seem so natural that I don’t notice them on reading the completed manuscript, either. Thus the computer search.
Prime example: suddenly.
I use a lot of suddenlys! My characters look up suddenly. They put down their forks suddenly. They hurl chairs suddenly.
(Have you ever seen a chair hurled in a non-sudden manner? Now that would be an adverb worth using: “He hurled the chair gradually.”)
So I’m starting a list of superfluous words that should be weeded out. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- somewhat, some
- sort of, kind of
Here are a few examples from different sections of my manuscript:
“What does Marta have to do with this?” her mother asked with
There were more stars in
just one small corner of the sky than you could see over all of Manhattan.
I jerked my head around,
suddenly paranoid, and shoved the boa back inside the bag. (Well, maybe I should keep that one. I’ll think about it.)
Talking with my lawyer friend Beth yesterday, she described routinely excising certain words when editing her colleagues’ briefs. In her case, they are legal jargon like heretofore.
I suspect every genre of writing – every profession – needs its own unique blacklist of superfluous words. Every writer should probably have her or his personal list too: The flabby words that slip into my draft may be different from the ones that slip into yours.
How about you? Any words that routinely roll off your pen that should be rolled off to the landfill?