What Are Your Trouble Words?

What words do you overuse? Everyone has those words that they use way too frequently. I know that in the book I just finished editing, my problem words for the novel overall were “room”, “looked” and “turned.” On a chapter-by-chapter basis, “back”, “never” and “walked” made it onto the overused words list, as did a whole bunch of others. I have a friend who says she overuses “just” when she writes e-mails.

This is normal. Especially in a first draft, where you’re just getting down your words and ideas and don’t necessarily think about the words you’re choosing

For instance, 35 uses of the word “looked” in three chapters is simply too much (my chapters are 10ish pages each). I sat down with my thesaurus and literally made lists of words that were synonyms of looked. You can also check out the incredibly handy www.thesaurus.com. Consider the following:

*Glanced                             *Studied
*Scrutinized                         *Observed
*Beheld                               *Peered
*Gaped                                *Pierced
*Scowled                             *Leered
*Glimpsed                            *Glared
*Viewed                               *Stared
*Squinted                             *Regarded
*Watched                             *Peeked

Clearly, not all of these would be easy to replace “look” with, but I was able to stop and think about the scene and what was going through my character’s h

eads and determine each character was doing and thinking. Was she intimidated? Curious? Excited? Was he nervous? Angry? That allowed me to replace some of my instances of “looked” with stronger verbs, without being awkward. I had to rewrite many of my sentences but it made them stronger.


I did the same thing with “walked” and now have an ongoing list of verbs to use instead of “walk” that might indicate how they were walking. In the one I was editing, I went so far as to use different verbs depending on whether my male protag was describing himself or the female protag and whether she was describing herself or him. There was some overlap, of course, but by doing that, I was also able (I hope) to

create a fresher voice for both of them.

What are your problem words? Do you know? To find out the words that you use frequently, check out wordle.net, select “create” and insert a block of text. It will create a word bubble like the one pictured above (that’s of my finished, edited novel).

The other word cloud was made up of all the words in this post.

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  1. Great post. I use Wordle to make pictures for my posts. Love that website. Will copy and paste your list for look. lol That’s one I use all the time.

  2. Robin says:

    I love wordle, too – a pretty way to see your obsessive words. 🙂

  3. You nailed me, Robin! Sheesh. I have no secrets now. I overuse LOOKED ALL the time. Ugh! Now that I know that’s my bad word I pause every time I type it and think, ‘LAME, try another one!’ That word has stopped my writing flow so many times. I’ll have to check out WORDLE.net. Thanks for the tip. Cool I love your word-clouds!

  4. Robin says:


    It’s an easy one to overuse. 🙂


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