We all know about the search function on Word (edit, find, write word in box, find next). If you don't - you really need to figure it out.
It is one of your best friends.
First, search for passive words like: had, were, was, that, when
Then figure out your own list of overused words. Everyone has them...yes, even you. You don't realize that you use them. You don't see them when you read your manuscript -- but they are there.
Case in point: one of my words is 'little'. I don't know why, but it is.
One friend who read my manuscript said "You sure like the word 'little'."
What? I never use that word. Well, I next to never use that word. Right?
So, I ran an edit - find - little - find next and guess what I found?
The word 'little' on every single page of my manuscript.
Every. Single. Page.
I had Little Ellen and the little kitten and the little black eyes of the frog.....
It doesn't take long for that to get annoying.
Some of my other overused words include: just, some, walking, turned, still, quiet, really and so
I run a search for those words after each revision. I ask myself: Is this word necessary? Can I make a better choice? Most of the time, I can.
Lastly, you need to run a search for adverbs. Now, let it be said that I am not of the mind that all adverbs are bad. In fact, well placed adverbs can add to the tone and voice of a piece.
For example, one line in my manuscript reads :
He was sorrowfully thin and looked like he hadn't seen a speck of soap in weeks.
Sorrowfully is an adverb, but I like it here. It adds to the voice.
Still, adverbs need to be looked at and individually addressed. But, again, that sneaky brain of yours will likely skim right past them.
So -- do your search. It would be impossible to think of every adverb and search for it...not to mention a waste of time.
That is why you should:
1. click edit (top of screen)
2. click find
3. put: ly(space)
4. click find next
It will take you to the adverbs that are within a sentence. Address each one. (I know not all -ly words are adverbs and not all adverbs end in -ly. It is still an effective way to search your manuscript).
THEN: do it again, only this time use ly(period) -- it looks like this: ly.
Click find next.
Now your computer will take you to the adverbs at the end of a sentence. These should almost always go.
Another example from my manuscript is when I did a ly. search after the first draft. I had written the line:
"Maybe," he said nervously.
Not great writing.
So, I changed it to :
The boy hesitated. "Maybe."
I think it's better. You may decide for yourself.
This will take some time, but it is worth doing. You may believe that you have been careful. You may tell yourself that you don't overuse words or use passive tense or that you carefully avoid schlucky adverbs.
I promise you will be surprised at what you find.
Questions for you: Are you already doing this? What are your overused words? I'd love to hear your thoughts....