Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 31, 2016

Over Used Words (Continued)

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Since Erika talked about overused words yesterday. I thought I would point out how AutoCrit helps you spot commonly overused words and sentence constructions that weaken your manuscript, including generic descriptions, passive voice, adverbs, and more.

The the analysis sidebar shows you the number of words found in a category and recommendations for improvement. It is important to remember that this is a suggestion only and not a hard number.

They compare your manuscript to samples of successful published fiction, including mass market paperbacks and bestsellers. If the number of overused words in your manuscript exceeds the average found in those published works, we’ll highlight the problem in your manuscript for quick analysis and editing.

For example, published fiction typically has about 10 adverbs per 1,000 words.  If your manuscript has 30 adverbs per 1,000 words, AutoCrit will suggest that you remove about 20 of those.

Below is a screen shot of my sidebar report for overused words for my 78,000 word novel. I have found it very helpful picking up things that you don’t notice.

overused wordsThe words we look for fall into several categories. For more information on each of these writing pitfalls, click the category below.

  • Adverbs: Those –ly words, such as quickly or happily. They rely on a weak adjective or verb (quickly walked); they can almost always be replaced by a single strong adjective or verb (ran, galloped, bolted).
  • Generic Descriptions: We look for descriptive words that could be replaced with more specific adjectives; words such as nice, good and pretty are generic and tell instead of show.
  • Passive Voice Indicators: Words such as has/had and was/were are classic indicators of passive voice; this sentence construction can be clunky or confusing for the reader.
  • Sentence Starters: Sentences that start the same way too frequently, including initial conjunctions (conjunctions such as but, and, or so) and sentences that start with –ING verbs. (Using this structure too often can be distracting to the reader, and many writers use it incorrectly).
  • Showing versus Telling: Words like was/were, hear/heard, watched/observed/noticed, and went may indicate you’re telling the reader instead of showing them.
  • Unnecessary Filler Words: That, just and other filler words creep into our writing but can be eliminated in almost all cases.

The Bottom Line

While using any word is fine in moderation, overusing a particular word or sentence structure can sap the energy from your writing.  Make sure every word earns its place on the page.

AutoCrit will highlight the words you could work on to eliminate. It also, gives you a list of words which you can click and walk you through each one letting you decide whether that word can be corrected. It points out repeated words and phases, too. And as you can see from the sidebar, it gives you a little pat on the back when it compares your writing to other books in your genre. They have a 7 day free trail and I was offered a discount when I decided to purchase. Check it out.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Wasn’t aware of this software. Thanks for blogging about it!

  2. This is excellent. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I prefer fiction with huge amounts of adverbs, passive voice, and nominalisation over others. Consequently, I cannot be deterred by any fascist program from writing accordingly, no matter what.

  4. Schilling,

    The program compares your writing to other books like yours, so you can take a look at the places that may be a problem. You won’t have to change a thing, but you may want to consider what is pointed out. On the other hand you can ignore what is getting published and what editors and readers find appealing. There are always exceptions. You may make passive voice and an abundance of adverbs so compelling you will be winning awards. There really aren’t any rules that can’t be broken.

    Good luck,

    Kathy


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