Editing Rant: Duplicates

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Duplicate words and phrases are common in writing. Some of the verbiage¬†redundancies are endemic¬†to the writer’s vocabulary. These are “go-to words”. Words which pop up again and again for a writer. People “grabbing” someone or something by the hand, arm, neck, jacket – instead of clutching the purse, gripping the handle, grasping a hand.

As you write, become aware of your go-to words and record them in a “pre-edit” list. Search online for ways to work around the words. A good google search is “Alternate words for ____” – then look under the images. Lots of pretty pictures and words beyond simple thesaurus words. Don’t knock the thesaurus; it’s an awesome tool for this problem.

Other duplicate words are “echo words”. Once the word comes up, it becomes an “earwig” repeating several times. The word just seems to be awesome for that part of the manuscript. Echo words are harder to find than go-to words. The repetition of the go-to words raises flags in beta readers, as well as living and mechanical editors. Echo words may only show up twice in a manuscript, but those two uses are within three pages in a four-hundred page manuscript.

Finally among the duplicate words are the “overused words”. Words every author uses too much: just, said, felt, look, that, etc.¬†

Finding the balance between punching, snappy narrative and overprocessing often comes into play with dealing with duplicate words. Reworking an area overfilled with go-to and overused words often produces a better product. How much editing with a thesaurus at your side is too much, removing your voice from the manuscript, is a personal call between you and your editor.

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