Thursday, November 1, 2012

Personal Cliches

IKEA lettered comforter

Last night I met my self-imposed deadline of October 31st to be done with revisions of The Book.  I finished re-reading the full manuscript while making changes along the way and completed the one lingering scene that needed writing/revising.  Then turned off the computer and went to bed.

I had one last task to do, though, before sending it off to my readers.  About two weeks ago I started collecting words and phrases that I thought I was overusing.  I call these "personal cliches."

I think every writer has certain words and phrases they tend to overuse.  They're the words we've said and heard so often they've created comfortable groves in our synaptic pathways that makes it difficult to not use them, especially when we're in a hurry or not actively thinking.  And while my characters may speak in a certain, distinctive way, overused words in standard prose are, I think, a sign of being too loose with language.

Word 2010 (PCside) has a nice feature that allows you to search for a work/phrase and displays the findings in a left navigational column.  Click on the sentence to the left and the page with that sentence appears in the main window with the word highlighted.

Here are some of the words/phrases I found.  The first number is the original number of instances I found across a 57k document.  The second number are those that remained after doing some spot revisions to reduce the first number.

"Of course" 32 / 22
"Simple" or "simply" 28 / 13
"While" 26 / 20
"However" 41 / 24
"Moment" 84 / 47
"Realized" 19 / 9
"Began" 29 / 14

Have you done a final check in your manuscripts for certain words or phrases?  Which ones have you worked to revise in your manuscripts?  I'm curious to know!

-- Tom