Do I use “just” too much? As if.

Posted on 23 September 2010

My writing buddies and I are at various stages of revising book-length works. Last weekend, we had some fun fell into a mild depression while searching our documents for overused words/phrases.

My surprise culprit? The phrase “as if.” I relied on this construction way too often in my early drafts of the novel. (Example: This sentence is curiously optimistic, as if it has a chance in hell of being published.) Blech. If Jennifer hadn’t circled that damn phrase about 150 times in my manuscript, I still might not have noticed how annoying it was.

Jennifer, our other writing buddy (“Ms. Memoirist”) and I also decided that we love the word “just” too much. It sounds like each of us overused that word to a criminal extent in our drafts. But since I’m focused on the big-picture issues in my novel, I decided not to worry about it right now.

Until, that is, I used the “find and replace” feature to see how many times I used “just” in the novel. The envelope, please…

316 times. THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN. In a manuscript that is currently down to 95,000 words. Sure, that also counts “justice,” “justified,” “adjust,” etc., but I doubt those words appear enough to make a difference. I’m just addicted to just.

At least “just” can usually be deleted outright, while my “as if” addiction requires either more cutting or recasting entire sentences. (I love the term “recast the sentence,” by the way. It makes me feel like I’m doing something active and concrete instead of moving little black letters around on a white screen.)

Who knows what other crutch words or phrases are lurking in my pages? Ah, well. I’ll have to worry about that later. I have much bigger issues to handle right now, like overhauling entire plot points in Part II or rethinking character motivations to just (JUST!) plain not going insane while I try to wrap my head around all these revisions.

Image: onlyben

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