I suspected as much

The good folks over at the institute of We Have Too Much Time On Our Hands have done a study on word usage. Specifically which words we use the most in the English language. The number one word is no surprise–I’ve already used it four times in this blog–it’s the ever popular, totally unassuming, cute as a button: THE.

But the second word may surprise those of you who aren’t writers. As for we writers–yeah, we know it’s number two on the list, we’re always trying to pull this pesky fellow out of our prose. It’s sort of a weed word. It pops up when you’re not looking. It has already shown up seven times in this blog and will assuradly score much higher than that before I’m done typing. (*Ping* Now we’re up to ten times.)

It’s the ever present To Be verb with all of its tag-along little brothers: is, was, are, am, and were. I just went through my manuscript and plucked quite a few off the pages. But never fear all you Hamlet lovers (To be or not to be) there are still plenty to go around.

I also have to go through pulling out THATs and JUSTs. I sprinkle JUSTs through my stories like they were chocolate chips. This time I also noticed a lot of gazes. As in: His gaze ran over me. His gaze zeroed in on me. His gaze flickered to my eyes.

His gaze obvioulsy is very busy and athletic to boot (running, zeroing, flickering–it makes me tired just to think about it.) His gaze most likely does pushups in its spare time.

Oh well, it’s on to the next draft.


I suspected as much — 20 Comments

  1. I’ve never had the stomach to read the rough draft of a novel with as much scrutiny as I am now, and let me tell ya, it’s revealing.

    At some point I made a note saying “if I use the word ‘so’ one more time…” and then I promptly used it twice in one sentence in the next paragraph. (Ex: She was so weary, so tired of living, etc. and other such over-dramatized garbage)


    Word Verification: “urkle” the sound I make when I see repeated words in my manuscript. See also “steve”

  2. I found a fun web site that makes “word clouds” – images from text you submit – at www dot wordle dot net.

    The default settings have the most frequent words displayed the largest. It was quite an eye opener when I pasted in my manuscript, and the word “just” appeared larger than the name of the story’s love interest.

    I went back through and took out a few.

  3. I have an addiction to the word “almost.” One would think the use of that word was somehow related to the health and well-being of my characters. Luckily, I’ve fixed that problem in my latest manuscript… well, almost.

  4. My big word overuse is the word “as.” But word overuse in general is certainly one of my weaknesses. Reading through a rough draft of my work in progress sometimes sends me into fits of despair. I do have an extensive vocabulary, I just appear not to use it in my writing. Oi.

  5. Isn’t his gaze a gold medalist by now? It is in my book. And I can’t seem to get rid of the word “seemed”…(case in point) Janette – you rock! But you can take comfort in the fact that you, at least, have an editor and an agent willing to see past those..LOL I am just hoping for that…ARGH!

  6. Now I’m scared to look at my manuscript! How many over used words do I use? I managed to weed out just, so, that, but who knew “as” could be so pesky! How about all those ‘ly’ words? There’s another frighteningly horribly frustratingly repetitive repetition. Wow, is that redundantly redundant!

  7. *sets to be verbs on fire* You’re right, they give every indication of being weeds. They pop up whether you’re looking or not.

    *cheers the next draft on*

  8. janette i feel your pain! to be verbs are basically the bane of my existance ever since my teacher introduced them to me a year ago. i have a post it note of all the little suckers on my computer in the hopes i’ll remember not to use them.

    too bad it doesn’t work

  9. lol

    Recently read your Fame book and I have to say that the last chapter. . .you know. . . the one at the school. . .I was crying I was laughing so hard. I was awfully glad my husband was out of town or he might have gotten slightly irritated at me laughing out loud in the wee hours of the morning.

  10. Glad you liked it! You obviously have great literary taste.

    I have to say I laughed when I wrote that scene. I always love it when that happens–you know, when I can entertain myself while I write.

  11. I’ve been pulling these weeds out of my MS for ages . . . they keep growing back!

    I’m not much of a gardner, I guess.

    I’m afraid my favorite word is “but” (with only one “t”). I even use it to begin sentences (hiding in shame). One of my crit buddies pointed this out to me (thank goodness for crit buddies).

    I’m in the process of taking your suggestion (from ANWA retreat) to rewrite in 1st person so I’m not going to worry about the weeds right now. But oh the pulling and killing that will ensue when I’m finished.

    See, there’s that whole “but” thing again . . . maybe I have a secret obsession about the size of mine. Do you suppose if I excercise some of mine away it will fall out of my MS as well?

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