It bears repeating…

Like most people, I have favorite turns of phrase upon which I rely.  My speech, my correspondence and likely my posts are littered with “it’s worth noting,” “for better and for worse,” and “any number of…” I overuse the words lovely, tricky, interestingly, chthonic (kidding about that last one.) At long last, however, I can monitor and control these verbal tics. With the help of the word frequency counter recently featured in Galleycat,  I can see just how prodigal I am with my “althoughs” and “indeeds.” Try it.

Much as I like this program, it strikes me that kids are almost as good at pointing up speech patterns. My almost five-year-old prefaces much of what he says with an eerily familiar “actually…,” He expresses his skepticism for my latest suggestion with “I’m not so sure about that,” and less charmingly, appends a peremptory “Yes or no?” to many of his questions in a harried mom tone of voice that sounds an awful lot like my own.

What words and phrases do you tend to repeat? If you ran the search on one of your own pieces, were there any that surprised you? Do you ever use the search function to find and (with apologies to Faulkner) kill your darlings?

9 Responses to It bears repeating…

  1. Lance Parkin says:

    In one David Lodge novel, an academic has written a paper noting an author’s “overuse of the word ‘the'”, and the author read that paper and has become completely neurotic and unable to complete any writing project since.

  2. JGStewart says:

    Way back in 2008 I loaded the 3rd draft of my novel in wordle, which generates a word cloud based on frequency of use:


    Pretty neat, but in the end I didn’t find it all that helpful… most of the words are far too common for me to worry about over-using them. I think repetition of less-common words/turns of phrase tends to become distracting quicker, and long before those words will make a blip in any kind word counter.

    (E.g. an author I like quite a bit used the word ‘smear’ in a non-standard way in one of his books… probably only did it 5 or 6 times, but it drove me up the wall.)

    I ended up going through my entire ‘final’ draft and highlighting the bits I thought might be distracting, and then tried to space them out or replace them. It was not the most enjoyable part of my novel-writing experience…


  3. Amy says:

    I’m a “just”er. It’s purely a writing tic. I didn’t even notice it until I started blogging, but it’s JUST so hard to avoid when I’m reviewing books. Now I can’t stop seeing it.

  4. Laura says:

    I wrote a whole blog post about my love affair with “just” and “as if.” I definitely do use the find feature to sniff out any overused words and phrases. I think all writes have them.

  5. Donna Hole says:

    although; even though; though; so; really. Awesome.

    The word/phrase counter would die with overload if I used it on my projects :)


  6. Josin says:

    “More than a little…”

    That’s my kryptonite. He was more than a little annoyed with her reaction. She was more than a little angry after the party. I was more than a little irritated by the whole thing.


  7. Dara says:

    I use “Well,” a lot. Also, I’ve found that when I’m describing something that’s particularly heinous–or even just slightly so–I use “foul”. Too much. 😛

  8. Haha, I wrote a blog post yesterday about how I made myself conquer some bad writing habits, but there are still certain turns of phrase I abuse. I utilize lot of “just”s and “even”s and “at (the very) least”s and “let alone”s in any writing. In academic papers, when repeating a point one of my sources has made, I rotate between “X points out”, “X describes”, “X notes”, and so on, using the same few introductory tags. In appropriate settings, I’ve found myself using “A challenging issue is” to start a sentence in more places than should be normal. In both academic and casual writing, I start a lot of sentences with “However”. In more casual settings, I tend to overuse “awesome” and, to a lesser extent, “amazing” as adjectives.

    When I noticed these habits, I began using CTRL+F to find them in my manuscripts. That made it easy to get a sense of just how much I was abusing these phrases and to correct them.

  9. Jessica says:

    I raise your “More than a little” with my dependence on “a bit.” I’m a “just” er, too. Uncomfortable as it is to take a hard look at the words we reach for all too often (for me it’s like listening to my voice in a recording; in my head my voice is several octaves lower. Think a rich baritone) it’s a helpful exercise, and helps us to break lexical bad habits.

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