Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition


One of the most important things we can do when editing our work, is checking for repetitions.

Repetition in writing is using the same words and phrases over and over again either on the same page, or scattered throughout a manuscript.

My personal favourite is the word 'that' as in, 'She knew that he was coming for her' rather than, 'She knew he was coming for her.' If you check your work you'll find that most instances of this word are totally unnecessary and can be eliminated. (Did anyone notice I sneakily slipped one in there?)

Other common repetitions are use of the words 'he', 'she' and the names of story characters, especially at the beginning of a sentence. 

Once you've got rid of these obvious ones, take a look at some of your own particular pet phrases. I once noticed I had written 'she turned' and 'she nodded' several times on one page of a story until I weeded them out.

Repetitions can also sneak in when writing descriptions - be warned!

It is very easy to check for known repetitions by simply clicking 'Edit' then 'Find' in Word. It's quite scary seeing all those 'he', 'she' or 'that' words highlighted in yellow, but at least now you can change or cut some of them.

What I'd like to know is what your own often repeated words or phrases are... we could make a list.



22 comments:

  1. 'Some' is a word I overuse.

    The ones we know about aren't the problem though, are they? It's the ones which creep in without us realising.

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    1. Yes, sneaky little things aren't they, Patsy.

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  2. They all sound familiar, Wendy! I think mine is probably 'he/she smiled', especially when trying to write uplifting stories for PF :)

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    1. "Ooh yes. I think that's one of mine too, Emma," she smiled.

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  3. In one novel I used rather too many 'rathers' as it was in the voice of a character who was rather partial to 'rather'. She was made to change her tune.

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    1. You do like using the word 'rather' don't you, Lindsay!

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  4. Mine are 'as' and 'that'! I think the 'Find' button in Edit is great, too, Wendy. :-)

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    1. I must check my work for 'at' as well - just in case, Jan.

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  5. I'm off to do a search right now! I'll get back to you :)

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    1. Look forward to reading what you find, Sam.

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  6. Great post. I've also noticed that when I'm teaching I tend to say 'just' rather a lot. 'Just breathe, Just lift one arm. Just ease into the posture.'

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    1. Not sure I use 'just' in my writing, Julia - maybe I should!

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  7. Believe me, I have a whole list of them, Wendy, some of which were kindly given to me by my editor! But I now don't use 'that' or 'just' very often, in stories at least.

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    1. I never realised how many 'that's I used until I read a post about it a couple of years ago, Rosemary.

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  8. Great post, Wendy. I'm just like Julia above and addicted to 'just'! As well as 'really'. My first drafts are incredibly (oh dear) crowded with adverbs so I go through and weed out the words end in 'ly'.

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  9. I loved the word very but didn't know it. Read something where Mark Twain said take out very and put in the word dam. Looked to me like it worked very well. My novel (the one I am afraid to publish) used very 181 times, I took out over 100. My 297 that's were also fixed. Nice post

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    1. Am now going to check my work for very!

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  10. I'm guilty of using 'that' as well, Wendy.

    My characters also keep saying 'I think...' at the beginning of sentences instead of just saying what they think! x

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    1. I think you should stop doing that, Joanna!

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  11. I use lots of 'justs' and 'reallys' and SUDDENLYs!! But it does help get rid of them, as Tracy has suggested, by searching for 'ly' words!

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    1. Are all your 'SUDDENLY's in capitals too, Helen?

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