1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Words That You Avoid

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Laurence, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    In school, my teachers always discouraged the words 'but', 'big', 'good' and 'said'. I know now that those teachers were just reading from a lame book and that shorter, less descriptive words are often great as they don't draw attention to the writing.

    Are there any words that 9/10 times you'll attempt to cut or swap out for a synonym?
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,350
    2,371
    313
    I think that the reason that teachers say that you should avoid certain words is that they're teaching writing to kids that have a wide range of attitudes toward the written word.

    A lot of people will write in just the same way that they talk - more or less - and it ends up with a lot of repetitions that get annoying to read. I believe that the advice comes mainly from that.

    That said...
    I usually try to avoid including the word that unless it's needed. In the sentences above I did the opposite in order to try and illustrate the point. :p

    Overall, I usually try to avoid words I feel aren't needed, and it's become part of my voice as a writer. That doesn't mean it's wrong in any way to include certain words. There may be such a thing as overuse though.
     
    Laurence likes this.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    Words that I'd eliminate 9/10? Not really. I use said between 1/3 and 1/2 of my dialogue tags, depending on what else is happening in the scene, which is less than what many people advocate. Svrt is right about "that" being a word that some people use as mental filler, but it's also, of course, a common word that you need. There are other words like this, and many writers have words that help prod their writing process a bit but need to be cut later. I would say maybe suddenly is the closest I can think of to that 9/10 ratio for some people... but only if you're using it for that mental writing push.

    I used to use quietude excessively in my D&D days as a setting prompt (the quietude of the forest around you...), to the point where one of my players was shocked to see it elsewhere because he didn't think it was a real word.

    To be blunt, though, as a general philosophy, I would suggest forgetting about the what-not-to-dos and focusing on affirmative rules. How can I add to the clarity, flow, emotion, momentum....

    If your writing skill is a ladder that you're climbing, look up, not down.
     
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,943
    938
    113
    Moist. *shudder* Such a tinny sort of word.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    Start looking out for this in your mail box....

    [​IMG]
     
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  6. Vaporo

    Vaporo Sage

    369
    196
    43
     
    A. E. Lowan and Devor like this.
  7. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    'That' is probably the only word that I seek out myself too (not necessarily always removing but good to keep track of). Constantly editing down sentences feels like it's creating my voice also and sometimes my weakness.

    For me, suddenly goes in the same pot as many short time adverbs. Trying to get across a short period of time by making a sentence longer...no sense.

    That's a lovely philosophy, but what if you must take something away to add to the clarity? Stop using so many em dashes to add to the flow?
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    Don't forget the ending!

     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    Well, it's not wrong, but... in a real scene you've got more than one thing you need to balance. You've got to be clear, and you've got to set the scene, and you want to convey the character's voice, and you want to set up whatever action might be happening. You're not going to succeed if you're focused on the what-not-to-dos. But if you focus on being clear, building the flow, setting up the momentum, and whatever else, you'll be making those little cuts and never even thinking about it, because you'll be focused on the underlying concepts that actually matter.
     
    Laurence likes this.
  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    2,658
    1,919
    163
    I try to stay away from swearing. I find it cheap. Too many authors think that using the F word a billion times somehow makes their character more funny or more hard core or whatever. I avoid that, for myself.
     
  11. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    2,658
    1,919
    163
    I am a teacher, and Svrt is correct. The issue is that we see kids writing stories the same way they talk (which in this age of 100 word tweets is VERY pathetic). We are trying to teach them to express themselves in different sorts of ways. Stretch their boundaries a little bit. That is the point of school. If a graffiti artist goes to art school, he is going to be forced to learn water colours, and oil painting, and portraits. They aren't going to just let him spray paint every assignment. The point of the school is to learn new techniques and develop a wide range of skills.

    We didn't just read some "lame book". After ten, twenty, thirty years in the profession you start to see the same lazy words used over and over and over again.
     
    Dark Squiggle and Laurence like this.
  12. Vaporo

    Vaporo Sage

    369
    196
    43
    Well, I think the issue here is that teachers tend to couch such advice in absolutes. NEVER use "said" as a dialogue tag. NEVER use words descriptive words like "big" or "good." NEVER use adverbs. Or, even if you say something like "AVOID the use of 'that,'" the student often receives no further context and takes the advice as an absolute anyways. I've heard people say that they followed this sort of advice to a T all the way through high school and into college before realizing how silly it is. A writer should never outright forbid themselves from using potentially useful tools.

    I doubt anyone else here is going to get this, but there's a bit of a parallel with the use of "GOTO" lines in computer programming. Students are told "NEVER use GOTO," since inexperienced programmers will often overuse it to the point of their code becoming unreadable. However, even after they gain more experience, programmers still arbitrarily forbid themselves from using GOTO because it's "bad practice."
     
    Chessie2 likes this.
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    This goes towards the idea that there are stages to your writing skill, and that you need to follow different advice at different levels.... the advice that's given to high schoolers isn't the advice that'll make you a professional writer, nor is it supposed to be. The problem comes in when these rules become baggage that we carry far longer than we're supposed to.

    At some point in your writing - why not this point, if you haven't already? - you need to focus on developing your own voice, so these old rules go out the window, and instead you can do whatever you want, so long as you're clear, and it flows, and your prose delivers on the elements of your scene...
     
    Laurence and Heliotrope like this.
  14. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    1,166
    772
    113
    No curse words. That's about it.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    5,557
    3,549
    313
    Then there's the advice from Mark Twain, to the effect that every time you are tempted to use the word "very" you should substitute "damn". Your editor will then remove every instance. It won't work today, alas, so you'll just have to remove "very" on your own.
     
    Dark Squiggle likes this.
  16. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    433
    121
    43
    You are of course right! Sorry, I let my own loathing of the English school syllabus slip out. I adore and respect teachers now that I'm an adult.

    There is something about books and podcasts not using swear words that I respect but then I do question the logic of replacing them with made up swear words - it just makes it more apparent to me that swear words are just words and should be taken more lightly. I guess it can be more immersive...
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,565
    3,076
    313
    I actually use "damn" a lot in my Ladybug fanfiction, so...
     
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,720
    1,820
    163
    OK, here's one I never thought about until DemesnedenoirDemesnedenoir started posting here, but now I can't help notice in things I'm reading:

    Directionals.

    Perhaps most readers wouldn't notice, at least consciously, those unneeded words. I do.

    He looked up at the sky. (Do you need to mention that the sky is "up"?)

    She sat down on the bench. (Why not just, "She sat on the bench?")

    He stepped out through the door. ("He stepped through the door.")

    Those directionals seem to be used just before prepositions. Hmmm.

    For me, they break the flow, throw me out of the story, heh. (Does "out" carry a metaphorical sense, here, and pass muster? :ROFLMAO:) I don't know to what degree this is because D corrupted me, but I suspect these things might even affect the casual reader, even if the reader is better able to gloss over them in reading the story.
     
  19. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,350
    2,371
    313
    I see the logic in this, but I'm not sure I feel it.
    I have a hunch it's the kind of thing that once seen, can't be unseen. You don't think about it until someone else points it out, and then you can't help but notice it everywhere.

    I have a feeling I use these directionals a lot, but I can't quite say for sure. It's not something I've though about, until now...
     
  20. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,720
    1,820
    163
    Possibly. I never thought about it much before D pointed it out on MS; now I notice all the time. It might also be an issue of dialect, less noticeable for those who tend to use these a lot in everyday speech. "To sit down" might be the verb for some, rather than simply "to sit." Every time someone sits, they sit down. Heh. Dunno. I try to avoid these now in my own writing.
     
Loading...

Share This Page