There is one mistake that I have seen over and over again when proofreading for other people or reviewing my own drafts. It is a very small mistake, and one that–if you know how to find it–can be obliterated completely from your novel in just a few minutes… but it’s hard to catch when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. The addition of unnecessary words is something that everyone falls prey to. It’s how we talk, how we try to sound more authorly, and it can kill any chance your book has of getting published.
Here I have put together a list of the ten words and phrases that you need to cut out in order to make your novel a success. Remember, people read faster than you can write. Even if it feels like you’re not changing much, you are taking the readers’ experience to a whole new level!
- Very. Did you know that there are over forty different synonyms for the word very? Once in college I banned that word from my written and spoken vocabulary for a whole semester, and I think my writing has been stronger ever since. Usually you can simply cut it out, but if you feel you need it, then get out a thesaurus and find something better to use in its place.
- Somehow. I still use this word far too often in my writing, even though I have yet to find a single instance where it was necessary. It’s basically just a filler in your mind, almost as bad as a writing equivalent to “um” or “uh.”
- Suddenly. I used to use this word all the time in my writing. I knew I was over-using it, but I didn’t know what I should replace it with. One day, I realized that actually I didn’t need it at all! It should be clear in the context that whatever happened was sudden, so if I have to point it out, then I should probably focus more on my writing as a whole at that part.
- Or the other. As in, “choose one or the other.” It’s the same with “each and every.” Whatever you choose, you will be choosing one.
- Then. Assuming your book is written in a rough chronological order, you shouldn’t need this word at all. Ever. It’s already assumed by your readers.
- Interesting. I cringe whenever I hear anyone use this word, either written or spoken. How is something interesting? Is it interesting in a good or bad way? This is a classic example of telling vs. showing. You’re not describing anything here, when you should give me a picture.
- In order to. It’s the same with “So that _____ could….” You mean to. “He went to the store to use his coupon.”
- Proceeded to. as in, “Jerry proceeded to sit at the table.” You could just say that he sat at the table.
- Up on top of. You mean on in most cases. In general, if you ever have two prepositions beside each other, one of them has to go. “Down underneath” is the same as “underneath.” “Right to the side of” is the same as “beside.” Keep an eye out!
- Alot. The same with alright. These are each common examples of separate words that people often write as one, when they should be “a lot” and “all right.” Also, they’re just bad words to use in your writing. You should probably cut them out whenever you have the chance.
Most of these words can be cut out using the search tool on Microsoft Word, and the others are usually easy to fix. For something so simple that can do so much… well, you know what to do now! Get it done!