I’ve written about these before. Probably the last time was when I used my sheet of words/phrases to analyze my most recently published book, ACT OF SURVIVAL, Book 4 The Second Chances Series, released in 2019. The list came to me originally from the great Margie Lawson. If you haven’t taken writing classes with her, you should. Act of survival 200x300

For a month and a half now, I’ve been going over TAINTED, book 8 which has an expected release date of Fall 2020. Margie’s original list which started with approximately 45 words/phrases has grown to over 75. With each book I’ve written,  I’ve found two to three or more favorite words that pop up everywhere. That’s how I’ve grown the list. 🙂

I don’t overuse all the words on the list. Some I don’t use at all, but other people did, and Margie included them. Words I never use are: in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact.

Other words I’ve internalized and don’t use nearly as much as I used to: usually-3 times, actually 9 and I took it to 3.

So proud to tell you I only used begun 1 time, and I left it in. Began showed up 11 times and it dropped to 2.  These words are like try and tried. The Nike add says it all. Just Do It. You don’t try to do something. Of course, Margie would probably edit out the just and say, Do It. 😊

Headed was one of those words I used everywhere.  This time the word showed up 22 times in TAINTED and shrunk to 2.

I pretty much full on pantsed TAINTED, which I’ve never done before on a full book. In 2018, I pantsed a short story for the 30th anniversary anthology of the North Texas RWA chapter. The chapter had published an anthology for the 20th and 25th years, but I didn’t participate because I don’t write short stories. For the 30th I wanted to be a part. The book is Free on Amazon and the stories all take place in Dew Drop, Texas. 🙂  

West- The Colonel and her Major

The point is TAINTED ended way shorter than I expected coming in at 60 thousand words. Normally, my books are 70 to 90 K, and I agonized over how short it was. But wait, I hadn’t used my Throw-Away Words list yet. Ironically, as I check these out and figure a better way to say what I mean, I add words. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what happens. TAINTED has grown to over 66 K, and I haven’t finished the list yet.

I used thing(s)  77 times and it went down to 5 in the edit process as I explained what thing was. It’s okay to use a word like thing in your first draft, but when you edit and rewrite, it’s important to flesh out the noun. What did thing stand for?  (I haven’t done it yet. I’ve even been afraid to see how many times it’s in the ms, but it (the process) works the same way.)

Back in 2014, I stumbled across a cheat sheet by Deana Carlyle that provides alternative verbs for such words as jumped or touched ( 1000 verbs in all). As I substituted some of her verbs for my overused ones, I make certain they do not become themselves overused.


I mentioned handled above. That’s one of Carlyle’s substitutions for touched. I don’t use it that way so much as “I can handle that….” Checking the Thesaurus on the computer is also a great way to find a different verb or noun. For grabbed, I found: get hold of, grasp, clutch, grip, clasp, grapple, clench, seized, snatched, palmed.

This part of writing is the nitty gritty part—not the fun part when your fingers dash across the keys slamming your characters in and out of difficulties, and you may or may not know how it’s all going to turn out. Except for me, I know I’ll always have a Happily Ever After.


As a reader, do you realize how authors agonize over word selection? As a writer, what are some tricks you use to spruce up your writing?  If you’d like the list, I’d be happy to share. Love to hear from you.

Because I believe with all my heart in Happily Ever Afters, I believe we will get through this pandemic. But I suspect we will be changed forever. Please, friends.  Stay in. Be safe. Be well.

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Word Search 2

Last month I posted on my own blog about Overused Words, finding those buzzards, and whacking them out.  I think it was Kathryn Jane who suggested perhaps this would make a good topic for our SOS blog. So, here we go with some repetition, but also new material.

As I worked on the last parts of editing for ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series (which will be my 6th published book has now gone to my editor. WhooHoo!), I bore down on searching out overused words.

My original list of 45 words came from Margie Lawson, an awesome writing teacher. She’s the first person who suggested to me perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. My list has grown to approximately 75 words and phrases. As I used Margie’s list, I stumbled on new words I overused in different books.

I don’t remember which book, but, Sounds good… or Sounds like…became my favorites and I used those words 150 times. In my recent search of ACT OF BETRAYAL, I didn’t use the phrase at all. 0 Times. Rewarding, I’m telling you.

img_4901There is, There are, There’s are commonly over used phrases. I had a total of 25 combined and reduced them to 5. Why don’t we want to use those words? Because this phrasing “There are sweet smelling flowers in the garden.” isn’t as active as saying “Flowers fill the garden with their sweet scent.”

Here are other commonly overused words:

well, somewhat, mused, a bit/a little, in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact, and so on and so forth, watch, see, gave, although, almost, some, however, and somewhat.

I didn’t use any of these words in ACT OF BETRAYAL, though I used to generously sprinkle them throughout my books. After checking the word search, I take great pride in writing a zero by the word on my list. Do you wonder why I leave them on the list if I’ve stopped using them? Partly because of the good feeling I get when the zero pops up and partly because I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.

What about words while I’m writing get by me?

So went from 180 to 37

That went from 340 to 69. In previous books, I had improved on the overuse of this word but for some reason, I went back to using the word in grammatically correct phrases, but where the word isn’t needed. Here’s an example from the third paragraph above: She’s the first person who suggested perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. I originally wrote the sentence this way:  She’s the first person who suggested that perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. As I typed, I backed up and removed “that.” One of those grammatically correct usages, but not necessary for a reader to get the content.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]

I’ve improved on many overused words.

Really only showed up 27 times. I got it down to 9. I wrote very 27 times and got it to 1. My most favorite word is just. I think, breath and speak this word. Even consciously working to keep it out, it showed up 155 times. I reduced just to 9 times. “Sometimes” you “just” “really” need to use “just.” LOL

Headed and pushed were both 27 and went to 5 & 4. I’ve cut back significantly on these words. I use “headed” for a car or a person moving.

How do I do the switch. I delete the word, but more often I find a substitute or a totally different way of saying what I mean.  Here are examples from ACT OF BETRAYAL:

Do you want to come by?” Would you like to come by?

So, what is it you don’t want me to know, Mom?” What are you afraid for me to find out, Mom? (I’d used want 154 times in the ms! Got it down to 53.)

She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and slid on her reading glasses. She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and popped on her reading glasses. Slid went from 32 to 6.

A tear slipped out of one eye and slid down her cheek. A tear slipped out of one eye and trickled down her cheek. (Slid and slipped are almost interchangeable. One of the issues to watch for is changing one overused word for another.)

We’ll be eating in a few minutes. We’ll be eating in less than five minutes. Few went from 32 to 11.

She grabbed her purse… She slung her purse over her shoulder.

She grabbed hold of the back of the nearest chair… She reached for the back of the nearest chair, missed…

Devon let go of Brett’s arm, making an attempt to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she grabbed hold again. Devon let go of Brett’s arm, attempting to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she clutched his arm again.

I’m getting my ID. I’m reaching for my ID.

Are we getting close? How close are we?

No getting out of this. No avoiding this.

I love the word “getting.”! LOL

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00008]

Why do we fall into the habit of using these words? When we begin, we’re writing the story, “getting” it on the screen. Then we rewrite and fix story line issues. Using, just, very, few…these are all ways we talk in everyday life, but reading these words slow down the story. As writers, it’s important to keep readers turning those pages.

Do you have favorite words you use a lot? Have any of you used, “you know,” the great filler from the 70s. If you’re an author do you do a word search like this? As a reader, are these things you notice when reading? If you’d like a copy of my 75 words and phrases, let me know and I’ll send you one. Love to hear from you.

4 Years ago on July 29 my first book released. In honor of that anniversary, I’m running a 99 Cent Sale for both VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. Appreciate your sharing the news. 

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