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Avoiding Word Repetitions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2019

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.

Word Repetitions

Here are a couple of examples:

Perish by Pedicure

The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”

Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”

So she arrived on…?”

“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”

“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”

“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.

“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”

“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.

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In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.

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Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)

“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”

Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.

Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.

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A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.

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4 Responses to “Avoiding Word Repetitions”

  1. Having the computer read the manuscript aloud can help find some of those clunkers if they’re close to each other. I agree that SmartEdit is a great tool for finding overused words across an entire manuscript.

  2. I try to keep a running list of often repeated words. Then I enter them into SmartEdit, a software program I use to catch all these and more. Even after this, I’ll find a “new” word to avoid. Sigh.

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