Common writer mistakes #3

#3 — Repeating words for emphasis

In some cases, repeating words helps.

“Please, Elie,” I begged. “You have to do this. You know how much it means to me. Please.”

See how the please is repeated? It didn’t seem to overdo the dialogue, because it was separated out by two full sentences. It felt smooth, a bit natural. Wasn’t repeated too much either.

On the other hand, I had a writer recently who used the word please about five times in one spot.

“Please, Elie,” I begged. “Please. You have to do this. Please. You know how much this means to me. You have to! Please!”

It felt like one of those neighborhood speed bumps where I have to keep slowing down.

Repeating words can be too much.

I’ve had readers complain about my work before when I used the same word twice in a paragraph. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you’re considering using a word three times or more in the same paragraph, ask yourself if it is essential each time it repeats.

A good way to find repeated words is to read your work out loud. You’ll realize you’ve said the word over and over again and catch the red flag.

Or you can use the search tool at the top right hand corner of Microsoft Word (or whatever program you’re using) and type in words that usually repeat, such as:

  • Character names
  • Said
  • A lot
  • Good
  • Many

Some words that may repeat are specific to your story. For example, if you’re writing a fantasy piece about wizards, those words may be:

  • Magic
  • Wand
  • Wizard
  • Spell
  • Potion

Check for repeated words even if you don’t think there are some. Just in case. You’ll be surprised.

For me, I never thought I used many repeated words until others pointed it out to me. It’s something that anyone can overlook when editing.

I hope this helps!

Dare to continue?
#1 — Using multiple adjectives
#2 — Vagueness for tension


19 thoughts on “Common writer mistakes #3

  1. This is great advice! I recently read an ARC that had the character name repeated too many times in short spaces of writing and it really distracted me from the story at hand. It’s not an issue I’ve really had to deal with before but I agree with your advice! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I use Prowriting Aid to edit. I’ve bought the full version but you can review up to a certain amount for free on their website. They have a search function for overused words that I’ve found helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

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