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Words That You Avoid

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Postpositive conjunction! For some reason that little lesson from grad school stuck. However (in its common usage) is a conjuction and so ought not start a sentence. When you spot yourself doing that, move it further into the sentence where it fits grammatically. Chances are, you'll also find you don't need it or you can write the sentence in a different, stronger way.

However that may be, the word can start a sentence when not used as a conjuction. It's one of those silly bits of English word engineering in that it is really two words stuck together. How. Ever. It can still be separated. It doesn't matter how you ever manage a sentence, there can be opportunities to separate how from ever.

Poor words. We do mistreat them so, don't we?
 
Given my natural tendency, I probably ought to create a list for myself so when I edit and revise I can do searches on However, Actually, Usually, and so forth!
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Given my natural tendency, I probably ought to create a list for myself so when I edit and revise I can do searches on However, Actually, Usually, and so forth!

I've heard that suggestion from editors. There are warning word lists out there you could use as a starter, then edit to your particular style. I keep meaning to do this, but I follow my own advice even less often than Alice followed hers.
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
Honestly, I feel like if I avoided using all the words the experts say to avoid then I'd have a difficult time expressing myself. Everything within moderation.
 
A lot of people are mentioning swearing/obscenity.

I used to be told a lot that using "bad" language was never necessary and was even "lazy" and showed that i wasn't creative. Well...that just doesn't work for all stories, apparently. It feels icky to try to deliberately censor my characters' dialogue, and that's what I found myself doing. They wanna swear. SO now, swear, they do.

That said, the swearing in my books is actually pretty sparse?? I just don't feel the need to drop f-bombs every other page. Ruins the effect.
 

Yora

Maester
Personally I try my best to avoid the word however; I do so because of how often I use it. If I were to write without checking my paragraphs every couple of minutes That word would infect the majority of sentence starters.
I think it's a great word I use in writing all the time. But it's a word used in making arguments and explanation done in writing. I can't really see it being used well in fiction. Specifically is another such word. I don't avoid them, but I don't even see places where they could be used.

Words that I avoid are terms for concepts that we take for granted but are actually specific to our culture, while I usually attempt to make the settings feel distinctive non-european. Like Evil. There are so many assumptions that come with the word, many of which I specifically want to be absent from the setting. Talking about terrible and dangerous people and their place in society and history without using the word Evil is actually a bit of work, but I think it's worth it. There's several more, but they don't come to mind right now.

Something that I think only bothers me as a non-native speaker is the use of "a person, that..." You can say "a person, who ...." and who is a word for people and that is a word for things. It always looks wrong.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>Evil originally meant 'uppity'.

I'm not sure where John Ayto gets that from. The word has meant "bad" in one sense or another for a very long time and across Germanic languages. It may be he is emphasizing the "ueber" part, but it may also be that people are quoting him out of context. None of the articles I found did more than reproduce the quote from Ayto, without providing a citation. Just because the root of the word means something like "overstepping accepted limits" doesn't necessarily mean the derived word meant "uppity." As far back as we see the word used (9thc or so), it means something closer to "bad" or "ill" without the specifically Christian overtones.

Sorry about jumping in there. It's sort of trigger for me when I hear "originally meant" or "really meant". Words are incredibly complex and malleable, and are used by beings who are even more complex and malleable. The greatest etymologist of them all was Humpty Dumpty. <grin>

What I really ought to say, more politely, is that "uppity" may well have been one connotation, but probably not the only one.
 

TheKillerBs

Inkling
>Evil originally meant 'uppity'.

I'm not sure where John Ayto gets that from. The word has meant "bad" in one sense or another for a very long time and across Germanic languages. It may be he is emphasizing the "ueber" part, but it may also be that people are quoting him out of context. None of the articles I found did more than reproduce the quote from Ayto, without providing a citation. Just because the root of the word means something like "overstepping accepted limits" doesn't necessarily mean the derived word meant "uppity." As far back as we see the word used (9thc or so), it means something closer to "bad" or "ill" without the specifically Christian overtones.

Sorry about jumping in there. It's sort of trigger for me when I hear "originally meant" or "really meant". Words are incredibly complex and malleable, and are used by beings who are even more complex and malleable. The greatest etymologist of them all was Humpty Dumpty. <grin>

What I really ought to say, more politely, is that "uppity" may well have been one connotation, but probably not the only one.
I don't know either. From the etymologies I've seen, evil's denotation of badness comes all the way from Proto-Indo-European.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I didn't quite say it was wrong, only that there was more to it than "uppity."

Ayto is a lexicographer. He gets cited on a couple of sites, but without specific attribution. He's the only one I've found who uses that rather specific word, so I suspect these websites are quoting from one of his books. It's a pity they don't cite the source, as I'd like to be able to see his argument.
 

Tom

Istar
I never use swear words.
I don't use swearing in narrative unless it's an integral part of the viewpoint character's voice. When I'm writing dialogue, however, especially modern colloquial dialogue...let's just say that my inner college student comes out on the page.
 

pmmg

Vala
I used to have a list of words I avoided, but its been a long time since I tried to put them down in writing. Some have become so stricken, they don't come up for me anymore. But my list still includes:

1) Now--Not only is this one often a crutch word for many authors, words like this seem almost to break the fourth wall for me. Of course its is not really 'Now', my story is in the past. Nothing is now. And now of course drifts on by so fast, its not 'now' anymore when the next action strikes. For me, only in dialog.

2) Suddenly--I can find a better way to show something happening..er...suddenly..

3) Seeming, or seemed--I think its just stronger to say it is or it isn't. I use sparingly.

4) Started or began--I tend to cut these in editing. One does not start to walk, they just are walking or are not.

5) (And I'll second Fifth from 2018, and try to remove directionals as space wasters).

6) Most dialog tags that are not 'said' or descriptors after them, such as 'she said breathlessly'. (And dialog tags too where I can).

7) Looked--if I find it is coming up too much. They looked, she looked...blah blah. Sometimes I just break it up.

8) Light--which is to say, I become aware when the light is mentioned too much. The light of the lantern lit the room with light.

9) Along those lines, any word that repeats too often, too close together. Bob kicked the door and the door opened. <--door just glares at me as needing to be cut.

10) Double words-- She had had the plates removed. <--I would would just rephrase that.

11) I have recently started to be more critical of 'ed' words, and seeing if they can be 'ing' words instead. 'ing' being more active.

12) As a personal rule, I try not to start any story with the word 'The', and usually not any scenes either.

13) Weird words when a plain word is more common and understandable. He thrust forward with his spetum, versus, He thrust forward with his spear.

14) Words the POV character would not know. Such as 'It was lemon yellow' when there are no lemons in their part of the world.

15) Words that could not be in the world. Such as Shanghaied in a world without a Shanghai.

16) Most 'ly' words for the same reasons everyone else avoids them.

17) Most words that have certainty to them, such as 'It was ten feet away'. An exact measurement is not likely to be known, so I would use other references.

18 ) Most words that are an RPG term--like gold pieces.

19) Words that refer to the Earth, or heavenly bodies, as my story is not on Earth, and it just ads confusion to jumble it.

20) In forum threads, I avoid 'Depends'. Cause that is secretly the answer to every question.

21) And Damnit...I try to avoid swear words as well, but that is just stylistically me. No other strong reason.


I am sure there are others, just not coming to mind at the moment. Maybe if I think of them.

(Yeah, I know...necroed another...or could I make that Nercoing...)
 
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pmmg

Vala
On the reverse, things I look to include when possible:

The taste and smell of things, cause it is so often not the focus and adds to the immersion.

Opportunities for world building...cause in my story...the character's don't care, and so a lot of it gets left out.

How characters react to events. It no good to have someone die without showing how it affected someone else.

I try to show how characters feel without overtly stating it. Sam turned red and screamed vs Sam was mad.

Things that add to the grittiness of the world. Like mud and wet things, and blood and pain.

Opportunities to make something stronger, and often with fewer words.

Things that add to the cultural immersion of the story. Such as Kopins instead of copper pieces (if I may borrow from Groo the Wanderer).

Things that are asking questions in the reader or the characters.

Things that seem to fit in life's minor annoyances...such as none of the armor in the armory is an exact fit.

Things that indicate how something could be, such as farms around the city. Farms have to be somewhere.

Things that add meaning, to the story, to the characters, and the reader too if I can.

Words that are actions.

Things that can be left to be inferred.
 

buyjupiter

Maester
I try to avoid words/phrases like:

-just
-about to
-started
-began
-had to have/had to be/passive voice constructions

All of these get in the way of my action verbs, deadening them and lessening their impact. And I usually have good action verbs!

I am adverb prone so I do try to examine how heavily I use them in a piece and cut them down if I use too many in a row...it's the poet in me I'm sure.
 
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