Oh, man. A month blog topic dedicated to stuff we screw up. This is like a playground for writers. We, as a whole, are pretty good at picking apart what we suck at, I think. Things we fumble time and time again. There are countless things–not trusting myself to tell the story; not being able to write an elevator pitch to save my life; never being able to write a short and concise synopsis (which is actually pretty hilarious considering I’m a very concise writer in my drafts). While I definitely do all those things, what I do without fail is fall to crutch words. Those pesky words I can’t let go of. They’ve been with me since my first manuscript, and if manuscript #9 is any indication, they’ll be with me for a long time to come. My favorites? Just and back. (FYI: I deleted an instance of just that didn’t need to be in this paragraph…I can’t run, and I can’t escape.)
When I Wordle my novel pre-edits, those two are nearly as large as the characters’ names on my word cloud. But like with most crutch words, they generally aren’t needed. Or at least they aren’t needed nearly as often as I would lead you do believe in my first draft.
I’ve managed to train my brain to automatically delete any unnecessary thats–while reading and writing–but I can’t quite get there with these others. Maybe it’s because when I draft, I tend to do so pretty quickly, where I don’t really think about the words I’m writing. I just (<—see??? I’ll never give it up!) write them. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown comfortable with certain ways to say certain things, and that’s how they come out on the page–as my crutch. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad I have Wordle (as well as an editing checklist I work off of) and copy-editors to delete these pesky things pre-publication, because they can weigh down the sentences and keep your MS from being punchy.
A few other crutch words to be on the lookout for are: really, very, totally, so, that, and then, just, well, good/great, quite, little…and probably a dozen others I’m not thinking of.
How about you? What are your crutch words? And do you have a special process or checklist you work from to eliminate them?