I recently agreed to help a new writer with his work and soon realized some of the blogs I wrote a couple years back are exactly what he needs. The thing about writing is that the basic rules never change. Today I’m bringing back an updated version of my original blog, Echoes – Repeat Offenders. I still use the tools mentioned here and I hope you’ll find them useful too.
Every writer new and experienced has a tendency to repeat certain words and phrases. These repeated words are often referred to as “Echoes.” Try reading one of your chapters out loud and you’ll hear the echoes loud and clear. It’s a real eye-opener.
Common Causes of Echoes:
- Using lame and boring “to be” verbs. When used, they often produce not only echoes but also wordy constructions. In other words the writing is clunky.
- Many echoes are subject oriented. For example, let’s say that in one chapter a wagon plays a big part in the action. Echoing “wagon” may be your repeated offense. Subject oriented words are sneaky. At first, they seem absolutely necessary. A closer inspection proves otherwise.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read my entire book out loud to find echoes. I’ve found a couple websites that simplify the task. The first one is www.wordcounter.com/ This sight list the words used in your chapter and how many times they were used.
Another echo finding website is www.sporkforge.com/ I like this one best as it lists both repeated words and phrases. This site also provides the average amount of words per sentence, number of question marks, exclamations, quotes etc. Why is that important? Editors hate multitudes of exclamation marks and long convoluted sentences.
In using these sites, I discovered my own set of echoes. Surprisingly, this same set remained consistent throughout my work. I became a maniac, checking my entire manuscript and in the process I made an interesting discovery.
When I reconstructed the sentences to eliminate echoes, the material flowed better. Even the action scenes were energized. Everything became more clear and concise without “sterilizing” my writing style.
Speaking of sterilizing your writing style — don’t. It’s possible to edit your voice right out of your writing. Sometimes words need to be repeated for affect, especially in dialogue.
Like any editing program these sites are only a guide. Use your better judgment. The sites also make note of every she, he, the, and character names. For the most part, these can be ignored. You’ll want to be careful with dialogue too. The way people talk, “is” sometimes clumsy. Don’t sterilize dialogue to the point that all characters sound like stuffy professors.
Should these tools be used for every chapter?
This is your choice. My recommendation is to run your current work through the tool and study the results. In time you’ll become so attuned to your personal echoes that avoiding them becomes automatic.
Below is a list of the most common echoes but once you use the website tools you might find your own unique Repeat Offenders. Make a list, or add to the one below.
The words in bold are the bad boys, that is, words that most writers repeat too often. The number one word that is most abused is “you.” “But” runs a close second. Body parts are almost always repeat offenders. Don’t leave a lot of these lying around. Sorry, I just had to say that.
PS. I’m still working on my new book cover and can’t wait to show everyone the results!