Indie Book Collective discussion

Banned words

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message 1: by Patricia (new)

Patricia O'Sullivan | 6 comments I'm keeping a list of words to avoid in my writing. So far I've added: suddenly, gently, very, that, quickly, immediately, then, started (began), moment (second), the verb 'to be'. See my explanation for each word here:

What words to you try to avoid in your writing and why?

message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 126 comments I do a search through my MS for the letter combination -ly, and delete most of the words ending that way. I also watch for "But" "although" and "just". Some of my danger words are generally good to avoid, and some are personal quirks that I overuse when writing a draft, sort of a typographic "um".

message 3: by Florence (new)

Florence Osmund | 61 comments I too try to replace any -ly words with something that "shows" instead of "tells." I also try to limit the use of started to, began to, was, is, that, feel, could, see, and somewhat--replacing them with alternative/stronger words. Of course, trite cliches should be avoided.

message 4: by D.M. (new)

D.M. Dutcher  | 9 comments There are times when the passive voice, the -ly words, and even the evil "very" can be used effectively. I agree with the examples you give in your blog post, but many of them are less about the words and more about the redundant or needless use of them. Or falling into passive voice in the middle of narration. Some counter-examples:

She was cute. Very cute. Very very cute. She was the Fort Knox of cute, if Fort Knox smelled like shit and spit up on its bib every five seconds.


He gently slipped the knife between her ribs. Her eyes widened and together they were silent for a single moment, a moment in which the love in her eyes died even if the light of her life refused to.

A thick knife in her gut would never snuff that light. She was immortal. But he wanted her to feed off of his hate. He had fallen in love with a dark goddess, not the lovestruck cow in front of him, dribbling blood on the rug.

"Dammit, Grey," She said, as she tore the blade from her side and threw it on the floor. The wound sealed up as quickly as it was made. Her voice trembled, whether in pain or lust he wasn't sure. "Not you too..."

Just hate me already, he thought. Remember what you are.

Sometimes for contrast or a weak form of affirmation or negation, the passive voice and those "weasel words" can work well. There's a difference between "she slapped his face," "she lightly slapped his face," and "she playfully slapped his face." There's also a difference between "I hate you," and "I very much hate you, you know."

It's good advice to any writer to be aware of all of those words and how you use them. Those words are dangerous because we use them unconsciously, and they add a lot of needless bulk to your writing. I know after reading your blog post I am going to do another editing pass to catch those words. There are proper uses of even the worst words, though.

message 5: by Uke (last edited Jun 10, 2012 12:09PM) (new)

Uke Jackson (ukejackson) | 78 comments Adverbs, for sure. Some still slip past but there you go.

Also, the ubiquitous misuse of lead for led. (As much a peeve as an avoidance, I suppose.)

Since I write fiction, "because" is verboten, though it might slip into a line of dialogue if that's the way the character speaks.

message 6: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) A lot depends on your readers. I write thrillers and the best sellers in that genre are full of adverbs (the killer crept silently -- because if he didn't the victim would flee). If you're aiming at the literary genre, no adverbs, no forms of 'to be', few conjunctions. Same thing applies to show v tell. Lee Child shows important things, and tells us less important things background and scenery. Keeps the reader engaged.

message 7: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 126 comments DMDutcher, of course there are times when any or all of the forbidden words and constructs can work very well. We just have to be very, very aware of using them to be sure they only make it in where they improve the writing.

Seeley, I'm not sure that I agree that adverbs are always a plus in thrillers, either. If I creep into a room, you can be pretty confident I did it silently, and no need to say so.

message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne Pyterek | 9 comments Obviously, nothing is set in stone...words are very slippery things!

One of my recurring subtexts is Language, ítself.

I mix a lot of poetry into my prose. Sometimes I include words ín the poetry I would normally leave out of the prose.This double standard helps the poetry have a natural, conversational cadence.

Whatever works!

message 9: by Paul (new)

Paul Morrison | 2 comments I cant believe that people were able to write stories pre-PC's, never to be able to use the find button to spot that you have used the same word 173 times for example is a lifesaver in terms of time

message 10: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 102 comments Yea! I get to copy/paste one of my most favorite quotes:

“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain

message 11: by Jayne (new)

Jayne (ladyjaguar) | 53 comments I understand the need not to overuse words, or use banal words like "nice" etc. This is GCSE stuff. Shouldn't writing come from the heart first? Then one can hone, carve, edit or craft their peice accordingly, but being strapped to conventions of what is or isn't acceptable does stall the creative flow somewhat.

One thing though. Some phrases have the same words, but the way they are placed makes all the difference eg.,

Take your clothes off vs. Take off your clothes. The second is far more erotic.

message 12: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 126 comments Steven, love the quote!

Jayne, we aren't necessarily talking about worrying about those words when first writing. This is edit country. Thus the joy of the search-and-destroy button.

message 13: by Erren (new)

Erren Wolf (errengreywolf) | 35 comments Thanks for the advice, guys.

message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 126 comments In fact, I don't do that kind of search until I have done several edits, and am past the point of writing new stuff and just polishing, as otherwise I will introduce more after my search and have to do it again.

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