How to tell if you are using one word too often.

My upcoming novel, Where the Carnies Are is in the editing stage right now and I just ran it through a little test that helps me determine what words I used the most when I wrote it. I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that (for free!) in just a minute.

First, let’s talk about WHY it is important to do this to your manuscripts.  When writing, you will often use the words you are most comfortable with. That isn’t a huge problem, but it might make you sound repetitive and boring. Let me give you an example.

When I checked my manuscript, I found a list of  words that I had used over 200 times–each. (Don’t look at the short commonly used words that go in just about every sentence. Look at the ones that can be switched out for other words.)

Here is the list of words I’m concerned about in my manuscript:

  1. Alex
  2. know
  3. people
  4. asked
  5. king
  6. want
  7. looked
  8. time
  9. need

Yeah. Many of those can be changed to better, more exciting words. So, once you do this to your manuscript, be sure to do a find and replace. Use a thesaurus and cut out some of the more repetitive words. Just make sure it doesn’t mess up the flow of you writing or the details of the story.

Keep in mind that sometimes it is necessary to have a lot of one word. An example would be said. That word is extremely common in novels, and you don’t need to worry too much about it.

Okay, so here is what you do:

Head over to http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp

Copy and paste your manuscript text into the box. Click submit. Analyze results–carefully.

They also have a phrase frequency counter which might also be useful. That one is right here: http://www.writewords.org.uk/phrase_count.asp

*Note: Continue to check phrases with more or less words. This will be the most beneficial. As long as you don’t have a five word phrase repeated more than 10 times, you should be fine.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “How to tell if you are using one word too often.

    • Patricia, There is another tool for your problem. It makes you even independent from using the Internet for it. That nifty software is called SmartEdit and the URL is http://www.smart-edit.com. There are 2 versions in one available. One version – with less features – is free, while the full featured version has a small price tag but is fully functional for 30 days. If you decide not to buy it, the trial version defaults to the free version after the trial period.

      It lists (according to your settings) the most used or even overused words and leads you through the relevant position in your sentence (if you want to) for correction. In my opinion It’s the most useful on the market so far. Reviews from independent editors or writer seem to confirm that. Check it out. Many writers use it for polishing their draft.

      Hans Maerker
      Copy Editor
      http://www.hansmaerker.com
      @h_maerker

  1. Well, I found a typo. I’ll give credit for (maybe) not paying attention, rather than not knowing. However, talking about “… one word too much” – especially in a header – is almost embarrassing. Words can be counted and therefore it need to be “… too many” instead of “… too much” !

    Sorry guys, but this needed to be said.
    Hans Maerker

    • Actually, I think if I were to say “How to tell if you are using one word too many” it would mean something entirely different–as in, one word more than I should have used. Perhaps it should actually read “How to tell if you are using one word too often.” Thanks for pointing it out though. I hope you found the tools helpful!

      • Yep, it’s amazing how one word can bring a complete different meaning inn a sentence. 🙂 I’ve to deal with this every time. Writers get tunnel vision when proofreading their own content, but this is only normal. 🙂

        BTW, how do I get my picture as an avatar uploaded to this blog? It’s not that I want to hide and shoot from a hidden place. I just don’t see an option. Yet everybody else seems to know this. Am I the only one who … ? I don’t have a problem with this, just don’t want to give the wrong impression. 🙂

        Hans Maerker

      • My blog is through WordPress, so if you have a picture uploaded there, you should be able to log in and use all your profile information here. You can get an account even without having to get a blog. Does that make any sense? The picture that shows when you post right now is just a random wordpress one. I’m sure people would understand, especially since you’re using a real name.

      • Concerning WordPress, I procrastinated for far too long already. I don’t have a WP page yet but need one withing the next two or three months anyway. It’ll be linked to my website for more activities. If using WordPress’ default is not interpreted the wrong way then this will be solved later on, when I’ve time to set everything up. Thanks for clarification. 🙂

        Right now I’m in the middle of translating a crime thriller, that plays in the medical world. The English author wants to break in the German language market with it. Especially since German publications play a big role in Europe’s growing self-publishing market. This has priority right now, and I need to keep the deadline. It’s what I do for a living.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s