Two great blog posts showed up in my google reader today, Scott Westerfeld's on Word Clouds and one on words that tell instead of show over at The Other Side of the Story. These both touch on a topic that has been casting its shadow over my mind lately: the overuse and abuse of crutch words.
I have them. I know I have them, both the kind that go completely unnoticed by me and the kind that even as I'm writing the word I think “I sure have been typing this a lot.” Some of the known crutches I'm trying to eradicate are:
Just. Everyone is always “just” doing something. “She just wondered...” “If he could just go...” “I should just ask...”
But note to self: unless there's some justice going on, this is a four-letter word I could probably forgo.
Gestures. Particularly those having to do with the eyes. Though eyes may be the windows to the soul, describing the windows doesn't always say enough about the building. My personal vices: “look,” “gaze,” “stare,” and “focus.”
But other common gestures crop up as well. My characters give out a lot of shrugs and smiles. But do I really want them to bounce between nonchalant and happy all the time? Surely human expression covers a far greater range of emotion.
Seemed. This one was recently pointed out to me in a critique of chapter one of the new novel. It's a guilt-laden word, and I knew I was using it, but I didn't realize how much. Oops!
Good thing the first draft doesn't have to be perfect. Three cheers for the power of revision!