Monday, July 6, 2009

Again and Again

Three weeks have past since I made a post about writing, and I had a difficult time deciding what to talk about. I'll blame my indecision on still recuperating from vacation - hey, works for me!

So I decided to talk about overusage of words. It's easy for us to get in the habit of using the same words over and over.

When you edit and find 20 justs in the first chapter, you put that word on your list of words to check. Pretty soon you'll become aware of anytime you type j-u-s-t, or even think it, and its use won't be a problem anymore. But another word will take its place, and your list will self-propagate.

Some words - it and there come to mind - probably won't make your list, but they should flash automatic signals to your fingers. We use them without much thought.

I've gone back and edited the first paragraph of this post. Originally, the first sentence began: It's been three weeks since. . . . And the second sentence read: I'll blame it on. . . .

The first is a variation of the it was/there was construction that signals weak, passive writing. The second usage was vague. Blame what? It is a pronoun and needs to have a noun to represent. In this case, there was nothing for it to refer to.

I'm not saying don't ever use these or any other words. I am saying to be judicious in their use. If any word on your list appears more than a few times in any chapter, that's your sign. Short story and article writers, adjust accordingly.

You'll see I've used it a few times in this post. Can you find the one I should have changed? How would you have changed it?

6 comments:

Michael Bracken said...

Not an "it" problem, but how about "Three weeks have passed..."?

Carol Kilgore said...

Let's see.

Three weeks is a definite passage of time, so it's better than saying "It was three weeks later."

The clause, or sentence, is active construction, not passive, because the subject, "three weeks," is the thing doing the passing. The passing wasn't done to the three weeks.

So for me it works.

I'm not a grammar instructor nor do I play one on TV. But I did recently stay at a Holiday Inn Express. . . .

Sylvia said...

Ummmm, Carol, read your post again. Michael was referring to your use of 'past' when you meant 'passed'. One of my pet peeves, along with 'you're' when 'your' is meant.
Ducking and grinning, and I love the title of your blog.
Sylvia
postoakchronicles.blogspot.com

Carol Kilgore said...

Well, duh, Sylvia. Thank you!

My bad.

When I blog, I basically type what comes in my head. I read it over and make any changes, then I click 'preview' and read it in that format. Sometimes I find stuff there that I need to change. It's like on-screen vs. hard copy because it looks different.

I don't sweat bullets over what I post here. I want to keep this an informal place where people feel free to say what they want. It is very much my voice, but as for polished quality . . . not so much.

I just plain missed PAST. No excuses.

I do know the difference. Didn't even catch it when Michael brought it to my attention. Sometimes you really have to hit me over the head with stuff before I see it.

Here are other no-no's you might find on here, because I find them all the time:
the instead of they
its or it's used inappropriately
hear or here used inappropriately

These are the things I do without thinking more than anything else. It's not that I don't know the difference, but more that my fingers don't follow through.

I am glad you brought this to my attention. Feel free to do so anytime. I try to keep my editor hat firmly in place when I read over what I've written, but the darn thing keeps falling off.

Sylvia said...

Yup, tell me about it. I have a writer friend who finds stuff I never dreamed I'd overlook in my writing!
I like informal. Your blog has a nice 'feel' (too tired to think of a better word) to it.
Sylvia

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks, Sylvia. Glad you like visiting here. If the Tiki Hut had a door, it would always be open.