Words to Kill

by Doug Langille

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Part of the self-editing process (you do self-edit, right?) is to clean-up passive voice, needless adverbs and filler words. This is typically done in a pass that doesn’t pass any judgement on the content itself. It’s a mechanical exercise.

So, why not use the awesome power of your computer to get it done. Write down a list of words that indicate writing that could be tightened up. Use an angry red crayon, if it helps. Start with these gems: was, were, had, just, that, started, think, thought, only. Add words to the list you often overuse. Search for them using the so-named function of your word processor. Don’t automatically remove, but challenge them. Are these the best word choices?

There are also a couple of web-based tools that can help. Keep in mind, they are only tools and should not be taken as gospel. Use your own judgement.

What tool do you use to murder your word darlings?

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