The Word Police

keystone-kops-granger

I’m back from my break and it wasn’t all about relaxing. In fact, I spent a good deal of time in custody. This post is about 3 years old, but the Word Police continue to visit me every time a WIP starts throwing it’s weight around and threatening to take hostages. While I catch up on reading posts and replying to comments, I hope you enjoy this oldie, but goodie.

***

Your WIP is looking respectable. It kicks off with a barbed hook and wraps up with a big fish. You’ve plugged up the plot holes, got the dialog flowing, the pace humming, and planted Chekov’s gun on the mantel. The characters are consistent, motivated, and true to life. The structure can withstand a windstorm.

The time has arrived for a visit from the Word Police,
and they’re a humorless bunch.

This is Step 3 in my editing process, the epitome of tediousness, a procrastinator’s nightmare. This is when writing is unadulterated, grueling toil. It’s time for me to weed out all those lame words, wimpy verbs, and crutch words that add no value to my prose. They’re plain old polyester when I strive for silk.

We all tap ordinary words. This post brims with them. Sometimes they’re the perfect choice, and sometimes there’s no wriggling around them.  In dialog, where characterization drives dialect and word choice, an attempt to police your words could prove foolhardy.

Yet, on the whole, if we explore more colorful options, delete the meaningless fillers, and zero in on those “telling” indicators, our writing will grow richer and more compelling.

In my case, the Word Police handcuff me to my recliner for weeks on end, inject me with caffeine, and force me to use the “Find” function in Word until my eyeballs dry out and my brain shrivels. They know my lazy words well, those I’m oblivious to as they tiptoe into my WIP. For starters the Crutch-word Cops make me look up 561 “that’s.”

I look at thousands of words, one at a time. When I can, I switch them out, thin them, delete them, or rewrite them away…depending.

word-police

Here’s the full list (except for the ones I missed). Get to know your favorites and feel free to add a few!

Wimpy Verbs: was/were, has/had, have, be, been, could, got, did, put, needed, wanted, gave, took, saw, walked, ran, sat, liked, moved, looked, appeared, seemed, made, turned, came, went, became…

Crutch Words – fillers:  that, then, next, well, OK, just, actually, really, only, still, yet, since, perhaps, maybe, so, even, tried, began, started…

Vague Words:  very, quite, rather, more, almost, about, around, often, some, somehow, somewhat…

Lame Words: really, awesome, amazing, great, better, dark, sad/happy, cold/hot, fast/slow, old/new, big/small, bad/good, nice, fine, interesting, beautiful, wonderful, sexy, for a moment, a bit, a few, lots, someone, something …

Telling Words – thinking/explaining: knew, thought, suspected, remembered, believed, understood, imagined, doubted, supposed, realized, wondered, guessed, hoped, wished, because…

Telling Words – sensing: Watched, saw, observed, felt, smelled, tasted, heard…

Telling Words – adverbs: Hopefully, quickly, slowly, slightly, sincerely, personally, possibly, certainly, exactly, finally, suddenly… (search by “ly”).

Any others I should add?

Keystone-Cops

244 thoughts on “The Word Police

  1. Word police…. great title…never really given attention to how my words were set. I had to think for almost five minutes before I could think of a word after really. Nice post

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! I love ALL OF THE WORDS! 😁 Crutch words, vague words, lame words, and (especially) adverbs! Yay for adverbs! They’re quite awesome, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After this lesson you need a better break hahaha. I am as bad with words too. I try to think if it is age getting in the way or what! You took me way down memory lane in my English class long time ago, oooh my days, I just don’t want to return there. And French class was my worse moment of all time. I was good at English then, but now I am all messed up with words! Thank you for reminding us again, I should print and stick it in front of my keyboard! Happy Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad Goodreads notified me about your posts. I haven’t been getting any notifications and thinking you’re still having a break, dear Diana. This ia a great article and I should copy/paste it for future reference. Hope you are well. Happy Easter! 🙂 BTW your website looks great. I love the white background and the bigger font.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Genre E. Michael Helms – Sense and Sensibility [Not what you think!] D. Wallace Peach – The Word Police Ernest Hemingway – How to Write […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tina Frisco says:

    Omg Diana, you had me in stitches reading this! Dictionary, thesaurus, Why We Say It, Gregg Reference Manual, and many more line my desk and glare at me while I’m writing. Welcome back, sister! Guess you need a real break now, eh? 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Teri Polen says:

    Happy you’re back, Diana! This is a post I need to print out, frame, and hang in front of me while I write. Better yet, find a way to burn it into my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I pull this list out with every book, Teri. These words just have a way of sneaking in there even though I know better! I’ll think I’m doing pretty good and then I’ll find 400 “so” and 600 “only.” Ugh! And most of them can just be deleted! Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. These are great, Diana. Being an editor by career, I love being the word police – unless I’m editing myself. Haha. I agree with all of yours. But I do love my adverbs, I admit abashedly….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Carol says:

    I love this Diana…I am probably..No, I am the worlds worst…Hand up! I admit it!…But I love this and admire your fortitude 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t pay much attention to words in ordinary conversation or informal writing, Carol, but in my books, I’m a little OCD about putting my best out there. I can make myself nutty too. 😀 Thanks for the visit and Happy Pickling!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hahaha I love this! Yes it is a tedious process but a necessary one, nonetheless. It’s really cool that you do it yourself! That shows real commitment and also a great deal of versatility. Amazing, Diana!
    Keep up the great work 🙂 And keep those pesky words well behind bars 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You have no idea, Diana, how this post made me happy. After i finished all the ‘polishing’ of my book, i woke up one morning and decided that i wasn’t finished. i googled ‘lame words’ and then i started going through them, one by one, replacing the words wherever i thought a replacement sounded better. i had a lot of buts, arounds, stills, thens, and most of the words you mentioned above.
    I’m so relieved to know that i’m not the only person who roots these words out.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Antonia says:

    Ha ha, love this Diana! I commit may ‘crimes’ every day. My daughter is learning to write using the IEW and she has to replace wimpy verbs and add in clauses and strong adjectives and adverbs, etc. I wish I had learned to write this way. I am learning a lot too, lol! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Always something for me to learn… great post, Diana. Thanks for this! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post, this list will be helpful to come back to now and again. I go through phases of using certain words too much, right now one of those is ‘so.’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, Marcia. I love so. Everything is so… whatever. So many of the so’s can be simply eliminated because they’re don’t add anything whatsoever. I’m so glad you visited and so hope you have a wonderful evening. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a great roundup of lame words, Diana! I try to stay on top of tired words also. I’m really bad with the word that. I’m so bad with it that I think I’m being followed by the THAT police. I had an old English teacher who really got onto me for using very. I’ve never used it since, ha ha.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. rijanjks says:

    A most excellent post! It goes hand-in-hand with my post today. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh my gosh, this is literally one of THE BEST posts I’ve read in a while! The writing is incredible and it had me laughing out loud. Especially when I read the “lame words” list. I happen to use those often! Lol! Fantastic post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad it was helpful! I use most of these lame, weak, and telling words, and they are completely invisible until a Word search highlights them. Then it’s eye-opening! Ugh. Lol. Happy Writing, Frankie, and thanks for the visit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Very helpful. I find a lot of these with Autocrit (an online tool) but not all of them. I’ve added your list to my edit protocol!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good to know, Jacqui. I haven’t tried Autocrit. I’m thinking of trying Prowritingaid. Hm. I should compare. Regarding this list, I don’t use all these words to excess but I definitely have my favorites! As tiresome as this step it, it always feels good to get it done. Happy Writing!

      Like

  19. I laughed out loud when I read the lame words. Guilty as charged! Haha. I copied and pasted your list for quick reference so that when I am feeling lazy,​ I will be motivated to consider my word choice a little harder. So good to see you back, Diana! I hope you had a lovely time and acheived all of the things you set out to! Big hug! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I go through this list for every book, Tanya. I avoid using “look” and everyone ends up “gazing” and “glancing” at each other. UGH! Lol. I had a wonderful break and did lots of gardening. Glad to be back though. Happy Writing, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Erika Beebe says:

    It’s good to see you back! I especially the word police item of telling words. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Erika. It’s impossible, I think, to get rid of all those telling words all the time, but they’re certainly worth paring down. My characters seem to do a lot of thinking, suspecting, supposing, and knowing! Ha ha. Happy Writing, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Sue Vincent says:

    Nice to see you back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Jennie says:

    This is outstanding (tried not to use a lame word), Karen. The humor you used, combined with a great (oh, I caved to lame) story made for a supercalafraduliciousexpialidocious (how’s that?) post. Really! Thank you, Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ocean Bream says:

    Excellent, Diana. I used to think I enjoyed this task, but the more I do it, the more abhorrent it becomes. Thanks for sharing these wonderful words of wisdom! I am guilty of using ALL of these woeful words with abandon. And glad to see you’re back from your break! For a moment I really thought you were in real life custody and I thought, ‘Diana!? Impossible!’. Glad to know my instincts about your moral judgements were correct. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • These weak, lame words just pour out of me too, Lenora. That’s why the Word Police are frequent visitors to my WIP. Not real jail, but they do glower at me and make me sweat. Ha ha. Thanks for the visit and Happy Writing!

      Like

  24. Ha. You are so right, Diana. I think I’m in custody too. 🙂 I really enjoyed this. Good reminders. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Teagan. I use this list with every WIP, and it’s amazing how much junk I pull out of my writing. Ugh. Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s great. I have (or had) a brief passage in Bloom… that I kept debating on removing (but because it was really about something someone stole from my writing and I worked it into the story). I kept going back and forth on whether to keep it. Then last week I decided that the passage did nothing to advance the storyline, so I took it out… even though having it made me feel validated.
        No writing today — hurt my back with the snow. Maybe tomorrow. Hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Annika Perry says:

    Yeah-the word police! 😀😀 Both a grind and incredibly satisfying task, and so important to enrich one’s work! You sound meticulous in looking up thousands of words … my pet word I discovered was ‘soon’! I must have fallen in love with the word, it made so many appearances! Great post, Diana and always relevant to all writers all times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha ha. And those pet words switch, Annika. As soon as you stop writing soon, you’ll find that your wip is full of only. I wish I could only write a sentence without only. Lol. Ah, the joys of editing. And you’re right that there is also something satisfying about finding the perfect words. Happy Writing, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Cloud Walker says:

    Oh D., only you ! ❤️❤️

    Like

  27. This was funny and helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Solitaire says:

    I bow to your superior word knowledge and humor… had me laughing!!!🥂😊

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Ugh! The word police! They always thunk me on the head if I use adverbs and passive voice. Now I have a long list of new words to look for! And people say writing is easy. They have obviously (oops an adverb) not had encounters with the word police!! So wonderful to have you back from your break. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s