“Read. Don’t chase trends. Read. Set a daily word count goal. Read. Anything “writerly” counts as working. Critique partners help IF they’re good.”
—Terry Odell, Award-winning author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series
Passive Words to Avoid
Adverbs: All words ending in “ly” —quietly, softly, energetically, etc.
Always: Unless using it in dialogue or with emphasis that something always happens.
Like: Any phrase beginning with like is most times telling the reader instead of showing them.
Just: Unless using it in dialogue or with emphasis that something just happens on occasion. Be careful, though, that a lot of things just don’t happen.
Only: Unless using it in dialogue or with emphasis that something only happens on occasion.
Pretty: Unless using it correctly in reference to something being beautiful.
Seem: Every form of it—seemingly, seemed, seems.
Passive Words to Use on Occasion
Even: There are times this word is necessary, however, reread the sentence to see if you can rephrase it.
Saidisms: Stated, commented, argued, etc. Use said and ask for transparent dialogue tags.
That: There are times that can be deleted out of the sentence and times it’s needed for the sentence to work. Read the sentence out loud if you’re unsure if it’s needed. 80% of the word that can be deleted in a manuscript.
Which: Be sure you know when to use that and when to use which. These are words misused on a frequent basis.
Every writer has a few words (adverbs/verbs/adjectives/phrases) they use A LOT. Search your manuscript for words that appear frequently in it, and see if you can 1) replace it with a synonym, or 2) delete it altogether in every sentence. You may have several crutch words. If you have more than 20 uses in your manuscript, it could be 18 uses too many.
Challenge: See if you can delete all of these words from your writing vocabulary.
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