Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Overused Words and Redundancies

“Words, like glass, obscure when they do not aid vision.” – Joseph Joubert

I find when I go back to edit anything I’ve written I come across the word ‘just’ far too often. I know this word should be used sparingly yet it seems to crop and spread through my prose like a fast growing weed. Sometimes I catch myself typing the word so I’m able to delete it on the spot. Then when I reread my work, I notice I included the word in the very next sentence.

‘Just’ is not my only overused word but it is my most annoying one. I also tend towards redundancies like shrugged his shoulders, stood up, sat down and fell down.

I’ve tried sticking notes on my computer screen and tacking a list of words to avoid on a wall near my computer. Even with the reminders right in front of me, the offending words and phrases find their way into my writing.

I found a great list of overused words and ideas to replace them over on My Writing Life but was surprised because ‘just’ is not included on the list. Am I just the only person who just insists on using that word? See what I mean?

Taking overused words to another level is the tradition at Lake Superior State University in Michigan. Each year they compile a list of words that should never be used again based on their overuse in the previous twelve-month period. On their 2009 list are words like maverick, carbon footprint, green, and staycation. I was surprised to find an emoticon had made the list. It supposedly looks like a heart and is used for the word love. The complete list can be found here.

Have you discovered a way to break yourself from overusing certain words? Are there words you think should be added to Lake Superior State University’s list?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: overused words, redundancies, Lake Superior State University, emoticon, Joubert,


Morgan Mandel said...

Perfect is a word that's greatly overused.

Morgan Mandel

Christine Rose said...

Great post! I love that list. There are many words I overuse. When I do a read through, I find myself crossing out several words and reaching for my thesaurus.

In everyday, I WAY overuse words like "incredible" and "amazing."

Nancy J. Parra said...

Oh, my- "just" is one of my biggest offenders- I do a search after edits and simply delete, delete, delete. Most of the time I don't need a replacement word at all. Sigh. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is something with which I constantly struggle. If I don't watch myself, I use "just" and "check it out" far, far too often. Augh.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The thorn in my side was - "was!" After my very first editor attacked my manuscript, I placed a sign by my computer with "was" in a circle and a slash through the word. "Stop the WASes!" became my slogan. And it did teach me how to reword sentences so as not to overuse that phrase.

I will check out the list of other overused words. Funny that an emoticon made the list!

L. Diane Wolfe

Bob Sanchez said...

"Pretty" used to be the word I caught myself overusing. Now it's "I." It's a struggle for me to write in the first person without overdoing that word.

Don't know if "sit down" is necessarily redundant, though; my dad used to nag me to sit up straight.

Bob Sanchez

Janine said...

I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard to find all my overused words (and yes, 'just' is included in the list).

It's awesome for catching all those problems that we just don't see in our own work. (oops, there was an unecessary 'just'!)

I couldn't live without it!

Cat Connor said...

I went through removing 'just' from my WIP, two days ago! (And I had to backspace to remove it from this, twice.)
I don't know what it is about that annoying little word but it sneaks in all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane. I'm giving you the "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" award. Pop in at my blog for the details.

Joan De La Haye

Todd D. Severin said...

Just is a great word to add to the list. With your permission, I'll add it retroactively. We need to keep that list growing. Or should I say,
"it'd be perfect if the amazing list was just totally growing like every day." Or such.

Thanks for finding my blog.

My Writing Life

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world