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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

Pulling Weeds from your Writing Garden


Photo cred. Pixabay

Weed Words. Even the most experienced writers find those pesky repetitive words that creep into their manuscripts.

One of my personal weed words is “now.” I honestly had no idea how often I used it in my writing until a friend of mine pointed it out in a text! At the time I was shocked by her comment. Did I really use that word so often? A quick check of the manuscript I was in the process of editing confirmed her accusation. I had a serious weed word problem!

So what are these weed words? Well, they are exactly what they sound like–words that worm their way into your writing repetitively, without your knowledge. Because we are the creator of those words, our brains are immune to “hearing” them in our mind. Therefore, repeated words can fill our pages and make our writing look lazy.

The good news is, there’s a relatively easy fix for this problem! To highlight a particular word within your manuscript, simply type that word in the upper right hand corner of your Word document and hit ‘enter.’ That word will appear in yellow and you will literally get a visual of your attachment to it. (One trick that I use is to type only the first few letters of the word, in case you’ve used different tenses.) I’ve heard varied suggestions of how often to allow that word to appear–anywhere from only once per chapter, to once per page. My personal opinion is to ask myself how common that word is within our daily speech, and decide from there.

So, how do you know which words are your weed words? Well, some you will just have to discover on your own. Ask beta readers or critique partners to read some of your work and make note of any they notice. Otherwise, check out this comprehensive list of commonly overused words at the Writers Helping Writers website. (It’s listed as ‘Crutch Words.’) This site is a great resource with lots of downloadable pages to help writers get organized with their writing!!

How about you? What are your weed words that seem to crop up in your writing? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Happy writing, friends!

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