Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can swap words help your writing?

One writing tip I learned is not to use the same word repeatedly within a hundred words of each other much less within a single paragraph.

Sometimes it is hard, especially when using your protagonist’s name. This is where pronouns help. Words such as him, her, she, he, you, them, it, ours, who, which, and I can be used to replace a noun (persons name). Depending on the tense of your writing (first or third person) you can even use pronouns to replace pronouns—her for she, him for he or me for I.

Another way to substitute words is to use the Thesaurus and find a synonym for the speech you want to replace. A synonym is a word meaning the same as another. Most word processors have a dictionary and Thesaurus. In Microsoft Word simply hover your cursor over the word, right click it and you are presented with the option of looking its definition up or checking to see the synonyms. As an example: hover your cursor over this word simple. The synonyms are—easy, straightforward, uncomplicated, trouble-free, undemanding, effortless and plane. Choose the word that best fits your sentence and substitute it for your overused word.

What do you do if a word has no synonyms? This is where a good dictionary comes in handy. Hints often arise for alternate language or phrases simply by reading its definition. Sometimes you can substitute a written expression with a showing statement. For example, say your protagonist has a cold and coughs a lot during a scene. Instead of using the word cough, try something like; his stomach shuddered as he tried to catch his breath.

How do you deal with the overuse of words in close proximity to each other?


  1. I deal with overused words much the same as you. A Thesaurus is a incredibly helpful tool and one I use often.

    Any exciting news yet? :)

  2. Hello Wendy,

    She still has my full. No news is good news. I am working hard on the first sequel and based on the page count of my first novel. I am nearing the 70% point.

    How is your agent search going?


  3. Still not searching for an agent. Soon, however. I'm currently rewriting the ending. Again.

    I really must leave it alone. But sadly, I cannot. I will know when it is right.

    Like you say, no news is indeed, good news. Keep me posted :)