Writing :: ‘no-no’ word list

On June 29, 2010 by Aimee

A friend once said my first drafts look like 2nd or 3rd drafts and while I got to clap happily at that notation, it’s not for lack of trying, as the expression goes. In fact it’s probably because of one little list that I have ingrained in my head. Worse, that list grows as I learn, adjust and practice.

What is my list of ‘no-no’ words? Well, these are words that generally are considered ‘bad’ in writing, or passive, those that are filler words, telling words or way-over used words.

Do I forget? Of course! Sometimes, I’ll go back through a draft and see ten mistakes in the first page worth of edits, but at least, if I keep these in mind while I write and stop, think and retool a sentence as write that 1st draft, the edits come out that much better.

I know there are those of the school of thought “Write now, edit later” but honestly, I can’t do that. I prefer to write well the first time and save on editing.

So, here is my list.

look, watch, hear, see, felt

just, quick

Any word that ends in -ly
Any word that ends in -ing

Weak verbs
was, were

Passive verbs
had, let, be (and all iterations)

Present tense mixers
this, now

I mean it when I say I will stop and rewrite. My brain will cease to function in the middle of a sentence (usually) when I pull up those works … EXCEPT (isn’t there always a but?) in dialog because people talk in all those bad ways.

Now if I’m writing casually, I break all my own rules. It’s only when I’m in my Scrivener application, writing in a dedicated story, or for an article for the paper or magazine that I work this way, so don’t think I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination. 🙂

What other words are on your ‘no-no’ list?

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