Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Ultimate Editing List



Click to Tweet: Are you trying to edit your manuscript? Check out @ChrysFey Ultimate Editing List: http://bit.ly/1QAQMUK #amediting #indie #writers


For a FREE PDF of this entire post that you can download to your computer, click this link: The Ultimate Editing List



Through years of writing, editing, and learning I have created a master list of words/phrases that I eliminate from my writing. I use the “Find” tool in Microsoft Word to help me with this task.

I have shared posts in the past with select words that every writer should try to cut such as: Eliminate Redundancies and Words to Cut out of Your Writing, but I am combining both lists plus including dozens more here:


Redundant/incorrect phrases to fix:
•     He thought to himself = He thought
•     She made her way = She went
•     Low/soft whisper = Whisper
•     Checked/check out = Checked/check
•     Reason(s) why = Reason(s)
•     Right here = Here
•     Meet with = Meet
•     Final outcome = Outcome
•     Added bonus = Bonus
•     Total blackout = Blackout
•     Bald-headed = Bald
•     Visibly Upset = Upset
•     Try out = Try
•     Each and every = Each
•     As many as = Up to
•     Turned back = Turned
•     Turned around = Turned
•     Return back = Return
•     Continued on = Continued

Take out words such as "up" and "down."
•     Stand/stood up = Stand/stood
•     Sit/sat down = Sit/sat
•     Lifted/picked up = Lifted/picked
•     Knelt/stooped down = Knelt/stooped
•     Dropped down = dropped
•     Descended down = Descended
•     Woke/wake up = Woke/wake
•     Rise up = Rise
•     Rest up = Rest
•     Fix up = Fix

Why? Because the direction/action is already stated.


Here is a list of words to cut because they clutter sentences:
·        That
·         Just
·         Only
·         Really
·         Very
·         Both

Example: She swore that it would never happen again.
Better: She swore it would never happen again.

Example: Jamie and Matt both wanted ice cream
Better: Jamie and Matt wanted ice cream.

Note: While I try to eliminate as many of these as I can, I still use “just” and “only” every now and then, like in dialogue. 


Cut these words to make clear, assertive statements:
·         Almost
·         Slightly
·         Seemed
·         Perhaps
·         Maybe
·         Simply
·         Somehow
·         Kind of
·         Sort of
·         A little
·         Absolutely
·         Basically
·         Actually
·         Instead
·         Usually
·         Now

Example: The cut hurt slightly.
Better: The cut hurt.

Example: Now stop it!
Better: Stop it!

Image from Pixabay

Phrases to eliminate to make your writing more specific:
·         There was/were
·         There is/are
·         It was
·         That had been

Example: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Better: The night was dark and stormy.

Tell your readers exactly what “it,” “that,” and “there” refers to so your meaning is clear.


Cut these phrases to eliminate telling:
·         He/She/I felt
·         He/She/I saw (or watched)


Correct phrase meanings/uses:
·         Site is a place
·         Sight is vision
·         Affect (verb) means to influence someone/thing (weather conditions affect)
·         Effect (noun) is a result of something (side effects of medication)
·         Could careless = Couldn’t careless
·         Shouldn’t of = Shouldn’t have (same for "wouldn't of" and "couldn't of")
·         six year old girl = six-year-old girl
·         By who = By whom
·         Only had = Had only
·         Try and = Try to
·         All of = All
·         Off of = Off


Eliminate passive voice:
·         was
·         were
·         Had/have been
·         Being
·         Will be

Passive voice is when the subject of a sentence is acted upon. Active Voice is when the subject of a sentence is the doer of the action.

Passive: Ben was attacked by a swarm of bees.
Active: A swarm of bees attacked Ben.

NOTE: It's not totally wrong to use passive voice. For example: "My car was stolen!" is a correct sentence if your character doesn't know who stole their car. 


Eliminate Telling:
  • He/she felt
  • He/she saw/watched
  • He/she heard
  • He/she thought
  • He/she wondered

Example: She watched the bird hop from branch to branch.
Better: The bird hopped from branch to branch.

Example: He saw her blush and bite her lip.
Better: She blushed and bit her lip.


Eliminate how many sentences begin with these words back-to-back:
·         He/she (third person)
·         I (first person)
·         Then
·         The

Variety is the spice of...writing. ;)

Clichés I look for to rewrite or delete:
·         Stopped in his/her tracks
·         Yell at the top of his/her lungs
·         At his/her fingertips
·         Sigh of relief
·         Blood boil
·         Glaring sun
·         Cold as ice
·         Hot as hell
·         Scared to death
·         Eyes were glazing over
·         Bared her soul
·         In the blink of an eye
·         All hell broke loose
·         Time flies
·         Deer caught in headlights
·         Pale as a ghost


I am constantly learning and adding more words/phrases to this list. After all, writing is a never-ending learning process.



SHARE: Words you delete when you’re editing, and I’ll add them to my list!


96 comments:

  1. Great list! I use the word just a lot. I'll admit it.
    Another word to eliminate - felt. Because usually if you are using it, you are telling not showing. (Unless you are talking about Muppets.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use "just" a lot, too!
      Felt is a good one to cut. Also "saw" and "watched." I completely forgot about those! Thanks for reminding me. :)

      Delete
  2. This is a great list! I think it's well worth bookmarking. It's pretty easy to fall into bad habits, especially on a rough draft.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nick! It is easy. That's why we have to keep practicing and stay vigilant. :)

      Delete
  3. Thanks, your list is a good reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great list of reminders. I'm with Alex,'just' is one of my over used words and 'well' often seems to sneak into dialogue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm an over-user of "just", too. And "well" sneaks into my dialogue a lot when I'm sending messages on FB. haha

      Delete
  5. Excellent reminders for the editing/revising stage, Chrys! I'm still in the drafting stages of my WiP so I'm not worrying too much about these things right now. Whew! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only look at this list when my first draft is done then I spend a good while looking up each word with Microsoft's Find tool.

      Delete
  6. Great list, will keep these in mind.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for this list! I get so mad when I see people say could of/should of/would of. Who started that??

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a superb post Chris, as usual. I will print this page and refer to it, as I'm in the editing stage of what I've written of my novel. This post makes me self conscious about what I'm writing, so I'll stop here. Thanks for such a comprehensive list and great advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's no need to be self-conscious because of this post. I have to eliminate a lot of these from my first drafts, too;. Every time! ;)

      Delete
  9. Great list! Passive voice irks me the most. I'm always shocked by how many instances of "was/were" I find in my writing. Not gonna lie, though, "really" is a word that I use a lot, since it kinda just became part of my narrator's voice. If I wrote in third person, it would sound pretty weird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's normal to use "really" or "just" a lot. I do the same thing no matter how much I try not to. ;)

      Delete
  10. It's amazing how many people overuse "that." It's so distracting when I'm reading a book which does just that. English teachers should really teach the importance of not overusing it, since so many sentences sound much better without it.

    Since I'm a student of world languages, I see the usage of "was/were/are/is" perhaps a bit differently. Just to use an example I'm familiar with, Russian has slightly different forms of verbs depending on whether an action is continuous, one-time, or just started. Using the qualifier "was/were/are/is" specifies what the character is doing. It also gives me a different impression of the action involved, like someone already reading the newspaper before the scene began vs. only starting to read it after the scene starts, or only quickly reading the newspaper and then putting it down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand exactly what you're saying, about was/were because I used to write the same way, but so many said "No-no!" Now I don't, but I personally didn't find anything wrong with it.

      Delete
  11. Great list. Ironically, I published my own list this week. That's how I found your blog, to be honest, researching other overused words. 'Very' is the word I found you writing about. 'Just' is my #1 over used word but I do have others I didn't see on your list.

    About - Seems like a lazy word to use.
    A lot - How much is a lot?
    Began - Did someone begin then stop? Or did they do it.

    Thanks for sharing. So much great information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I told you I'd be posting mine this Wednesday. Great minds think alike. ;)

      You're not alone with that 'just.' I overuse it and so do many others who have commented.

      Delete
  12. A wonderful list! I was going to add a word, but all of a sudden it slipped out of my brain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! I hate it when that happens. :P

      Delete
  13. Great list! I'd add a couple I use: knelt down and dropped down, both of which are redundant and the down can be dropped. That's the great part of editing... it's like a game, finding all the little things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, those are good! I'll add them. Thanks, Loni! :)

      Delete
  14. I'm not a writer, but I can see myself using some of these phrases in blog posts :) Could reminder to get to the point and exclude a word here and there without changing the meaning of what you what written.

    betty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I use some of them in blog posts too, because I'm a little more leisurely with my blog posts. :)

      Delete
  15. My blog posts are pretty juvenile, as far as grammar goes. This is an incredibly useful list, Chrys! Thanks - I'm making a copy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you find this useful, Cherdo! :)

      Delete
  16. What a terrific post, Chrys! Great lists. "Just" is a word I have to watch. But I'll add to your first group:

    "Continued on" is a phrase that is redundant, too, but that I see a lot of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Continued on' is a good one! Thanks, Barbara!

      Delete
  17. Just and seemed I used a ton, but had it pointed out to me and now use them only when absolutely necessary. Great list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have the same problem with 'just' and 'seemed.' While I cut out as many as I can, I still leave in a few when necessary, as you said. :)

      Delete
  18. Excellent post, you covered a lot of ground. I'm constantly taking those pesky "extra" words out of my manuscripts. Wonder how they ever got there in the first place!!! LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a little fairy comes in a sprinkles those extra words in when we aren't looking. ;)

      Delete
  19. Great post, Chrys!! You should put all this useful info in a book. I'd definitely invest in it. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I greatly appreciate it. It seems so simple and yet we all fall into the traps of verboseness from time to time. I will be checking my latest stories!! All the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am planning on create a book with all of my best blog posts, but not just yet. ;) And you're so very welcome! I believe writers shoulod help other writers. :)

      Delete
    2. Cherdo wants to pre-order, ha ha.

      Delete
    3. Haha! It may be a long wait. ;)

      Delete
  20. What a terrific list. Using the 'find' function also helps you learn your bad habit words so you notice when you're using them.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Excellent list. When I first started writing, I tried to delete all of my ing words. I forgot about gerunds being all right. Good times in the beginning. Good times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love ing word! ;) Yes, the beginning was good times. It was so much easier writing back then. lol

      Delete
  22. Great list, Chrys. We all need to condense our writing, eh? Just a few cut phrases or words does wonders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A phrases or word here or there really does do wonders. :)

      Delete
  23. What an excellent list of reminders! Another one for my In-case-you're-not-sure notebook.
    As with other readers of this post, I've been consciously working on 'just' for awhile now by searching the word and scratching it from the document and am amazed by how many times I (keep) using it!
    I'm curious, if you shouldn't use 'perhaps' or 'maybe', what else is there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can use 'perhaps' or 'maybe' but they are weak. By cutting them out of sentences you're making those sentences more assertive.

      Delete
  24. Great list, Chrys. I tried copying and pasting in a word doc to use when I'm editing! Though the background is black!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can take away the black background after you paste. In Word, normally a little clipboard graphic appears in the corner of what you paste. If you click on it, you can select keep text only. It'll get rid of any formatting and color and just leave the text.

      Delete
  25. This is a handy list. I need to print it.
    Thanks for sharing, Chrys!

    ReplyDelete
  26. This is great, Cris. I just wanted to clarify for your readers why you say certain ones like sit/stand= down/up. If we think about those alone it will help us see others we may do, but aren't on your list. I used to do that a lot, A LOT. lol But when we sit, we can ONLY go down, therefore no need to state that a character sat 'down'. Or if they stand, they can ONLY go up (unless they know another direction to sit or stand. LOL) It really seems obvious, but when writing, we tend to want to help the readers know just what we mean, so we treat them like they are, well...stupid, by spelling it out. In this and most examples you've given like it, we have to acknowledge that readers are smart. Smart enough to figure out that when a character sits, they are going down. :)

    One other thing. With hyphenating age (six-year-old) keep in mind that not all publishers, or editors, follow that rule. I had a few changed in my work by different publishers. They go by individual 'house style' in a lot of areas where the CMoS (Chicago Manual of Style) doesn't have solid rules.

    Hope it's ok to offer this from an editor's perspective. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still tend to add "up" or "down." lol I figured after my list, and adding the ones that some commenters suggested, that readers would eventually get the idea. ;)

      In that case, the editor would fix it to what he/she prefers.

      That's no problem, Calisa.

      Delete
  27. What a great list. I'm going to print and save to use as I edit my next story. I am one of those "just" people who has to constantly check for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! There's a lot of us "just" people. ;)

      Delete
  28. Usually I have trouble with -- usually!!! That's another of those words I have to keep watching for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Usually is a good one to add! Thanks, Rebecca!

      Delete
  29. That's a great list. I use 'and' a lot when I'm writing articles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mary! 'And' is a tricky one to eliminate.

      Delete
  30. Awesome list and this post has been duly bookmarked! "That" has always been one of my targets of abuse. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, DL! "That" is a pain in the butt! :P

      Delete
  31. Great post, Chrys. It's so nice to review all those useless or misused words every now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Terrific post! Cuts to live by. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Okay I have to copy all. This will eliminate half of my blogs (smile).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Cutting these words/phrases does drop the word count down quite a bit. ;)

      Delete
  34. Please do a post on pronouns, I am so tired of writers using YOU instead of all the pronouns they should have used. Great lists by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A post on pronouns. Hmm...thanks for the suggestion. :)

      Delete
  35. These are wonderful. I'll have to return to this when I'm editing.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Great editing tips, Chrys. Have you tried www.wordle.net ? It makes neat designs of the words you use most in a segment of text ... say a chapter you've written. Go visit. Have some fun. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never tried www.wordle.net. I'll have to check that out. Thanks! :)

      Delete
  37. This is awesome!!! I need to print this and save it. There's a tool you can use where you pull your text in and it identifies the words you use most. I can't remember the URL.

    I had an editor with my freelancing who wouldn't let me use the word WAS (or is) EVER. That was very tough. (See? I just used it!) Glad she stopped sending me assignments. Avoiding "was" altogether was giving me a headache!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like the website Roland mentioned just before your comment. I have to try it some time!

      Not use 'was' ever? Gosh, I don't think I could do it!

      Delete
  38. Another great post. I've already saved it to use as reference. I try my best not to use "was" and "that" but it isn't always easy. Another thing I look for during edits are too many words ending in "ly." Those definitely get cut. And as for cliches, most times instead of cutting them, I try to reinvent them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to use 'was' but I try not to and cut out passive voice when I can, but I'm not so crazy as to try to not use 'was' at all. That would be difficult! Eek!

      Yup, that's why for the cliches I said to rewrite or delete them, because it is possible to make them new.

      Delete
  39. Spectacular list, Chrys. Once my drafts are done, I use AutoCrit to help me spot check for repeated words, qualifiers, and certain phrases. I'll definitely be adding some new offenders from this list. One other thing I look for is too many sentences beginning with a gerund.

    My worst crime is overusing "it." I bring a whole new meaning to It girl. I do think clichés can sometimes work in dialogue—there are people who speak in clichés. But clichés never work in narrative.

    VR Barkowski

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right that cliches are okay in dialogue, but not narrative.

      Delete
  40. Chrys, this is a GREAT post. One of your best, I think, which is saying something :) Super helpful and practical - the kind of thing I can bookmark and use as a proofreading list. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  41. bookmarked!!! Love this--crazy how much we overuse words!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! And it is crazy. I don't know why we do it other than we just talk like that.

      Delete
  42. Good list and has set me thinking. I always have a long hard look at adverbs that creep into my work, most can be removed or replaced with something better. Those that stay have to earn their place. I'm also wary of 'shouting' as in 'blah blah,' he shouted. I read one book where everyone WAS SHOUTING. It's often obvious from the context.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Shouted' is a good one to either remove or change. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ian! :)

      Delete
  43. Great list, Chrys. I'm guilty of all these things. I have to delete - juste, thats,and wells - to name but a few. That's why editing is so important. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Editing is extremely important. We all have to do it. :)

      Delete
  44. Hi Chris .. no wonder you've got 92 comments ... I've kept the post open - so I can re-read it properly as I'm aware I definitely make some of these mistakes ...

    Thanks for setting it out so clearly .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Hilary! I thought a lot of people could benefit from this. :)

      Delete

Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

Popular Posts!