It’s really very unnecessary

I’m back to redundant words, they take up a lot of my time when revising. Really and very take the stage. Just like up and down, very and really very often have an entourage of unnecessary words tagging along for the free ride. I know when I’m using these words that I’m getting wordy and to slow down. I go through what I originally wrote and take a good look at what needs to be changed.

Generic spell check programs will catch some of them, but not all.
For example:

The very blue sweater was really loose on Sasha. (9)
Sasha’s blue sweater was loose. (5)

See? Same point, four words less.

Cal was very late. He was really going to get a lecture from the Sargent this time. (17)
Cal was late. A lecture was imminent from the Sargent this time. (12)

The temptation to say it’s ‘very’ anything is really strong. 😉

She held her hand up. It was very dark, too dark to really see her hand in front of her face. (21)
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand in front of her face. (16)
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand before her face. (14)

When I search for the redundant words or filter words I only search one at a time. That way I can focus on what I need to fix. Usually I find other things to fix and other words to remove along the way.

My advice about the very unnecessary and really redundant words.
It is really very easy to plunk extra words in, it’s really very unnecessary so just don’t do it. Get that search/find feature going and nix the redundant ones.


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The ups and downs of writing

I talk a lot about redundant words or filter words. Words that are in general, useless and take up valuable writing space.

Up and down are two such words. Sometimes they are necessary and most often not. When I took a good look at these two I had
460 Up’s brought down to 274 after revision
250 Down’s brought down to 126 after revision.
The remainders were necessary.

For example:

He tied up his shoelaces. – He tied his shoelaces.
He set the mug down on the table. – He set the mug on the table.
She stood up. – She stood.
He sat down hard. – He sat hard.
The balloon rose up in the air. – The balloon rose in the air

Sometimes it’s necessary so don’t use the auto search and replace feature.
For example:

He let her down.
She cheered up.
The arrow pointed down.
You’re going down!
I’ll never give up.

Chances are if I’m using up and down I’m tossing all kinds of other unnecessary words in for giggles. When I find them I take care to check out their neighbouring words and see if anyone else needs to get an eviction notice.

Sasha set down the two layouts on her desk, stood up from her chair and walked over to the window. Looking down to the sidewalk down below she sighed. He was down there waiting for her. He wouldn’t give up. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled down the shade to block the view. Returning to her desk, she sat down, picked up the layouts and started going over what was wrong with them. (71)

Oh dear, I’m a wordy writer. Snip, snip… Time for a trim.

Sasha set the two layouts on her desk, stood and went to the window. Looking at the sidewalk below, she sighed. He was waiting for her. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled the shade blocking the view, returned to her desk, and continued to revise the layouts. (45)

I’m pretty sure her comment about him being persistent can stand in place of “He wouldn’t give up.” I am not perfect and even revising and editing my material, I’m certain I miss things like this. That is why I make a list of words such as up and down and use the search(search only not search and replace) feature and check up on each and every occurrence. Tedious? Yup you bet, but when you trim the excess and end up with something smooth and shiny it’s rewarding. 

My advice about up and downs.
It’s a common sense thing. You can use them if you want to, but redundancy can cost you professionalism points in the eyes of agents, publishers and readers. Consider the value of the words you use and improve on them if you can.


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No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Featured Image -- 9308Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading.  It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.

Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words:  saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.

Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?

First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.

After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.

This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.

Here are some of the ones I overused.

Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653

I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.

Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.

My advice about filter words.

I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.



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