You’re in the zone, you’ve been hard at work and you’ve got thousands of words that have poured from your mind onto the document. Then you reread the last couple paragraphs you wrote and you notice you’ve used the same word, or the same phrase, far too many times. It’s glaring. It’s annoying. You can’t think of one other phrase that could possibly fill its place. The next step is to pop up the search bar and type in that word or phrase, so you can watch as the counter steadily goes up and your headache steadily inclines with it.
We all do this. Common words or phrases I’ve found myself crying over include: at that moment, said, down, and walk(ed). Said, in particular, is a pain to fix. There’s lots of ways to describe how someone is saying something, but it’s very hard to either, A) think of them or B) find one that fits a normal tone or mood. Every book or story has a different overused word. There’s no rhyme or reason to why one specific word wants to be present in a particular story.
So, how do you fix it? You can’t just go through and change all, or even half, of the offenders to some other word. You’ve got to come up with an entire arsenal of words with the same meaning, that you can plug into about 75% of the overused word’s spots. It’s not an easy task. Some of the instances where you see the overused word or phrase need to be cut from the story entirely. If you find yourself using the same word in a sentence twice (and its not something generic), you’re going to want to delete it. If you find yourself using the same phrase multiple times in a paragraph, you’re going to want to rewrite that. Few things are more time consuming than an overused word.
You could just leave the overused word in the story, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Your readers are going to notice, and chances are it’s going to start to annoy them. Every time that word pops up it’s all they’re going to be able to see. Their eyes are going to go immediately to that word. It’s going to drive them crazy that you’ve said it fifty million times. Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Fix it. It’s time consuming. It’s headache inducing. That’s part of being a writer.
Here’s a list of sites that can help you with this problem:
Alternatives to Said: http://writeworld.org/saiddialogue
Alternatives to Walk: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/60-synonyms-for-walk/
Overall Finder of Alternatives: http://www.wordhippo.com/