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jayelle_cochran
April 29th, 2013, 10:00 PM
There's something that I've noticed when editing my own work that I've seen in the fiction section of the forums a lot. It's an overuse of words like 'and', 'just', 'more', 'very', etc. A lot of times these words can clog up someone's writing, making it look amateurish.

The word 'and' is the typical culprit for run-on sentences. So often, if you delete the word and separate the sentence then you will find that the section flows better for the reader. Generally when I come upon this in my own work, I will ask myself if it would sound better as two sentences instead. If not, and it still seems like it's a run-on, then I'll try to reword it.

The word 'more' can often be eliminated by adding '-er' to the end of the word it's helping. So instead of 'more happy' you would write 'happier'. This is a grammar mistake that is made often.

With words like 'just' and 'very', it's often best to delete them entirely. Using such words on occasion isn't an issue; the problem arises when the word is overused to the point where it 'clogs up' the flow of the story.


What I like to do when I am going through my first edit is to use the "find" feature to locate particular words such as 'just', 'very', and 'more' and then delete them or reword the sentence they are a part of. For words like 'and' or 'but' where I don't want to delete nearly all of them, I have to read the text to find any areas of concern. It always amazes me how much something so simple can clean up one's writing.


I hope this helps someone. If anyone else has examples of words that are overused, please feel free to share! The more we know the better we do.

*hugs*
Jayelle

PiP
April 29th, 2013, 10:24 PM
Great tips jayelle :) Thank you!

I will be editing my novel soon, so this will be a great help!

"but" is another word.

Carole

jayelle_cochran
April 30th, 2013, 04:45 PM
Awesome! Glad I could be of help! :D

*hugs*
Jayelle

Sam
April 30th, 2013, 04:55 PM
'And' doesn't constitute a run-on sentence. It's a conjunction. It functions to join sentences together.

I'm not having a go at you, Jayelle. What you've said about 'just', 'very', and 'more' is true. Be careful, however, about lumping words in there that are perfectly fine. That's my problem with someone telling me to avoid words. In the right context they can be used to great effect.

jayelle_cochran
April 30th, 2013, 05:57 PM
Oh you're perfectly right. I don't know all the terms that are proper so I did the best I could. While 'and' doesn't mean that there is a runon sentence, it does seem to be the culprit a lot of times. That was all I meant and it was based off of my own observations.

Thank you for pointing it out. It's important for people to know.

For example: They walked hand in hand and smiled at one another and laughed about the past together and then gazed at the moon and the beauty around them.

That could be broken up into 3 sentences and probably sound a lot better. This was the sort of thing I meant.

*hugs*
Jayelle

Sam
April 30th, 2013, 06:11 PM
Ah, I see what you mean now, Jayelle. That's not a run-on sentence but more a case of too many sentences on top of each other. This is a run-on sentence:

Jack came into his yard, he opened the gate.

There's no semi-colon, full stop, or conjunction separating those two sentences. That's when they become a run-on.

Bilston Blue
April 30th, 2013, 06:20 PM
Hi, Jayelle.

Like many aspects of the craft of writing, I think the preference or not of the use of "and", or, specifically, its repetitious use, once it is being used correctly, is purely a personal choice.

I used to be very much for not using it more than once in a sentence. I couldn't tell you why, except I'd have said at the time it seemed kind of immature, almost childlike. I couldn't have given you a technical or grammatical reason. Then I started reading Hemingway and my whole outlook changed, pretty much on the first page of his work I read.

The opening page of A Farewell to Arms:

Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

I love its rhythm and simplicity. There's an innocence to it. I could read his stuff for the writing alone, regardless of the strength of story.

MJ Preston
April 30th, 2013, 06:23 PM
I was very happy to read this thread about the unbelievable overuse of words to completely bulk up sentences to over fatten sentences and make them chock full of words.

Gamer_2k4
April 30th, 2013, 07:07 PM
Mark Twain had some good advice on the matter:

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."


From my own experience, I believe that word choice is at the heart of these issues. For example, while editing my work, I've found phrases like "slightly shocked." That's like saying I was "slightly in second place." Either you're shocked or you aren't, and if you aren't, there's a better word to be used.

The beauty of language is that we have words so specific that we don't need modifiers like "slightly" or "very." Any time you're tempted to modify an adjective or adverb like that, there are probably better words to be used.

JosephB
April 30th, 2013, 08:02 PM
I don't really worry about this kind of thing too much. There's a time to use certain words and a time not to use them. I don't keep an eye out for any of them in particular -- or rule out anything in advance. If something doesn't sound right -- it goes. That's about it.

Leyline
May 1st, 2013, 12:39 AM
From my own experience, I believe that word choice is at the heart of these issues. For example, while editing my work, I've found phrases like "slightly shocked." That's like saying I was "slightly in second place." Either you're shocked or you aren't, and if you aren't, there's a better word to be used.



Not at all. Being 'shocked' is not a binary state, unless you're claiming that there's no quantitative difference between the statement "I was shocked when my favorite television show was cancelled unexpectedly," and "I was shocked to learn my best friend had been run over by a garbage truck."

jayelle_cochran
May 1st, 2013, 03:53 AM
Keep in mind that I wasn't saying those words should never be used at all. They are perfectly fine. The issue arises when they are overused. The Mark Twain quote that Gamer posted was what first had me look at my writing in this way. I don't use 'very' a lot but I do use 'just' and 'still' far too often. In a rough draft it's perfectly fine. But in a finished piece, I feel that the writer should try to minimize the use of such words (with the exception of 'and' which is far too common a word to limit).

In an effort to clean up my manuscript, I tried using the find function to look up "just". I was amazed to find how often I used that word. Sometimes every paragraph had it written once or twice. I kept it for some sentences and deleted it for all the others. Basically, it comes down to a question. "Would the sentence tell what I want it to if I remove this word?" If the answer is 'yes' then I delete the word. If the answer is 'no' or 'maybe' then I leave it alone. After I do that I find that I like my writing more.

*hugs*
Jayelle

jayelle_cochran
May 1st, 2013, 04:02 AM
Ah, I see what you mean now, Jayelle. That's not a run-on sentence but more a case of too many sentences on top of each other. This is a run-on sentence:

Jack came into his yard, he opened the gate.

There's no semi-colon, full stop, or conjunction separating those two sentences. That's when they become a run-on.

Sam thanks for the clarification. I remember being taught that any sentence that could or should be broken up into two ore more sentences was a run-on. That's why I had used that term.

*hugs*
Jayelle

Nickleby
May 1st, 2013, 03:41 PM
Another word I don't like to see is then, along with its poorer cousin and then. Readers assume that the events in your story happen in chronological order (unless there's reason to think otherwise). Using then to sequence those events is redundant.

And another thing: as used as a conjunction. As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of space.

As with the other examples, you can use those words properly and sparingly. Try not to overuse them.

JosephB
May 1st, 2013, 03:54 PM
^ I read "then" all the time in very well written fiction. It has it's place in making a series of actions or observations flow -- and it's really more about that than what readers "know." I would never remove it from my tool box -- just like I don't remove any word from my tool box in advance.

Gamer_2k4
May 1st, 2013, 04:12 PM
Not at all. Being 'shocked' is not a binary state, unless you're claiming that there's no quantitative difference between the statement "I was shocked when my favorite television show was cancelled unexpectedly," and "I was shocked to learn my best friend had been run over by a garbage truck."

I would argue that "shocked" just isn't the correct word in your first example. Surprised, maybe. Shocked, probably not.

Skodt
May 1st, 2013, 04:35 PM
^ I think this may be down to an opinion. Shocked that my friend is gay, but also shocked that my dog died. Shocked is unexpected and works in any situation of surprise, they are interchanging in most situations. I am surprised Charlie was in a car crash. I am shocked to find Charlie was in a car crash. Both of those sentences make sense, and both would be acceptable to a reader. You may prefer one or the other, but it don't make the other less right.

Slightly shocked could mean you expected it, but was not ready for it to be true. I always knew Charlie was a little feminine, but I was still slightly shocked to find he was gay. The character was not fully shocked, but that was only because in his mind he always sort of knew, but that shock was still there slightly. The unease in your stomach when your slightly shocked/surprised by something. Like your grandma was dying of cancer, and you knew she was going to die eventually, but it came suddenly overnight. You would be detailed as shocked, but not fully shocked because you expected it to happen soon.

This is also just my way of thinking on the word shocked, and you could still be disagreeable to the wording, but I threw my two cents in.

Al D
June 5th, 2013, 07:28 AM
All these overused words work well in dialogue. I've seen stories where the writer seems to have carefully edited or written the dialogue to conform to standard usage and it sounds odd.

shadowwalker
June 5th, 2013, 03:13 PM
I think the point is not that they are always everywhere over-used, but to check yourself to see if you have gotten into a "habit" instead of using a word or phrase that actually works better. I like to use the search function to see how often my characters blink or sigh or shrug, as they have a nasty habit of developing some sort of malady that causes these on a nearly constant basis.

movieman
June 11th, 2013, 08:46 PM
^ I read "then" all the time in very well written fiction. It has it's place in making a series of actions or observations flow -- and it's really more about that than what readers "know."

Ditto. I use 'then' when 'and' or a sentence break feels wrong.