I’ve recently read a story that was littered with the word been.
While it is a useful verb, it can be tiresome to read it over and over to the point, it becomes aggravating.
The word, been, sprouts up in my past-tense writing a lot. After it annoyed me in someone else’s writing, I went to look again. I had 106 incidences of it in a 110k manuscript. Not bad, but not good. I looked back to see what it was from my first draft, and I had 214 incidences of BEEN.
That means it’s an overused word or crutch-word. Something I lean on too much, and I consider that to be lazy writing. I can do better.
Here are some examples from my writing of where I plunked the word been in and how I removed it. The final sentence used is shown in blue.
I’ve never been on a dock in my life.
I’ve never stepped foot on a dock in my life.
You’ve been betrayed.
You were betrayed.
They betrayed you.
It had been the first time I was allowed out past dark.
It was the first time I was allowed out past dark.
(Now I have two ‘was’ in the sentence.)
I was allowed out past dark for the first time.
(Sometimes a complete rewrite of the sentence is the solution.)
He had been his own lawyer.
He was his own lawyer.
He’d acted as his own lawyer.
I’d been so upset. I sputtered my answer like an idiot.
I was so upset. I sputtered my answer like an idiot.
Upset, I sputtered my answer like an idiot.
“You could have been smarter about that.”
(Sometimes I’ll leave it in dialogue if it works for the character.)
“I’ve been driving for hours!”
While I do my best not to overuse BEEN, I don’t eliminate it completely. I’m happy with less than 50 incidences of the word in a 110k word document. Most had sprouted up in dialogue, the others felt necessary—to keep the tone of the situation/sentence intact.