Looking at that 85,000 word manuscript and wondering how to cut it down to 75,000 so you can submit?  There’s an easier way than pulling it apart and completely rewriting it, a process that takes another two months out of your schedule and leaves you cutting out important scenes and making hard decisions about dialogue and character development.  By taking a weekend (or two) and carefully combing though your MS using the “Find” command in Word, you can eliminate literally pages of unnecessary words, overused words, and “fluff” words, turning your work into the lean, mean writing it is meant to be.  Besides the list of “usual suspects” below, we all have words that we tend to overuse individually, so a running list of these is important to keep for yourself, and a final check before submitting is imperative.

“The Standards”

THAT                                       SAW, SEE

JUST                                         FELT

THEN                                       REALIZE

LIKE                                        BASICALLY

SEEMS                                     HONESTLY

REALLY                                  BEGAN, BEGIN, BEGUN

VERY                                      DEFINITELY, CERTAINLY

KNOW                                    THINK

THING                                    STOOD UP, SAT DOWN

ALMOST                                 NOD, SHOOK

HEAR, HEARD                       HONESTLY

HAVE TO                                 LOOK

Don’t overuse gestures (salute, wave, nod, high five, handshake), overtly complicated, descriptive words (vulpine, elephantine, resplendent), odd colors (butterscotch, chartreuse, carnelian), or action words that denote a special meaning (snort, chortle, snigger).  These stand out and the reader will notice.  The more innocuous a word, the more often you can use it.

And then there’s the ones I personally overuse:



SO (especially as a sentence starter, for some weird reason)


SORRY (and an awful lot of ‘so sorry’s) as if using them together somehow makes it all better!



I cut my MS down by 7,000 words by just deleting many of the words listed, and made it stronger by replacing these words with a different, more active version.  It’s honestly the easiest, fastest way to streamline your writing, without tearing it apart, and you’ll be surprised by how often you use these words, and how much better your writing sounds without them!

If you’re using Word, go to Home >Editing>Find> type in the word(s) you are searching for, and it will come up with the number of times it appears in your manuscript.  I go through and decide whether or not to delete each one, or replace, then move onto the next one, or, you could do them all at once if you wanted.  Hope this helps!

Random Spring picture, because FINALLY the sun was out!



About the author: L. A. McGinnis


You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.
  1. Danielle Haas - March 30, 2017 Reply

    Great list! It’s crazy how when someone points out an overused word in your MS, it suddenly pops out at you. My two big ones are ALL and OUT.

  2. L. A. McGinnis - March 30, 2017 Reply

    Thanks Danielle- It was interesting when I noticed the patterns as I went through my ms with a fine tooth comb. and then my editor found even more! Hopefully I can use this to make my writing cleaner out of the gate. The worst part was when I realized how often I use “so” in my speech!

  3. Michael - March 31, 2017 Reply

    Wow Honey….This is very very good !!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Email address is required.