• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Work, work, work, work, work, work


I can’t believe I’ve never done this before. I decided to see how many times I used the word “like” in a document. Then I searched for “then,” “felt,” “once,” “still,” and “even.” It was SHOCKING. I used “like” over 250 times. I used “then” over 300 times. I spent two days looking at each instance and justified its existence, changed it or cut it. Oh my god. I thought I was a halfway decent writer.

What words do you abuse?

18 Responses

  1. I.

  2. But, yet, while, nevertheless.

  3. “What words do you abuse?”

    All of them, at one point or another. I’m a Democrat.

  4. so, just, definitely; and those are just the ones I know about

  5. They are sneaky little buggers.

    This is partly how I self-edit – doing a search on the usual suspects.

    In every ms I’ve found overused words. In this lastest I discovered I’m using “and then,” too much.

    I found this really handy list a while back that points out what are called “filtering” words, and I use this too to clean up things even more:


    • Argh – *latest, not lastest.

    • “THen” and “and then” are really interesting. I saw that I used for plotting. It’s a weak crutch. Plot needs to be more dynamic than then. I found I could cut most of them and the pace really picked up. Then again…

      • It’s almost like I don’t know I’m doing using it, and many others – until I go hunting. Those are “yikes” moments for me.

        “And then,” will definitely get cut – as much as possible. In my ms, it’s like a connector between actions of characters – or something. “He said a prayer, and then she began serving the food.” Or, “It branded them, and then broke them, long before it was even over.” Etc. I can already see how those can be changed.

        SEVENTY-FOUR instances of it. Gulp.

    • That’s very helpful, thanks!

  6. Adverbs and some adjectives. I spent so much time around academics , who qualify every statement. If John meets Mary for lunch, it probably does not matter if it is noon, just before noon, nearly noon, about noon. It may not matter that it is over lunch at all. I tend to add overqualifiers along with extraneous “generally,” “basically,” etc.

  7. “That”
    I’m beginning to hate that word.

  8. Still. Fortunately someone pointed it out. I weeded out then and because and but…but then they creep back. Just because.

  9. “Perhaps” a repeating word for me, too. makes the whole piece seem tentative. I’m not as bad as I used to be. I was copyediting a piece for a young woman and found myself running into the word “unbeknownst.” When I counted, there were 25 in a fairly short essay. When I deleted or rephrased a few, she got upset. Said that was what made “her” sound. I told her it was a colorful word but practically obsolete, and in any case too eccentric to use so often. Undiplomatic. We soon parted company.
    Martha Moffett

  10. Really… No, really!

  11. Forty years ago I had to write my own Word Processor for DOS .txt files. One trick I needed to make was a word sorter to catch names for the indexer. All those over used words fell out. I found I use the word “just” as an adverb over 2.5% of the time. As an adjective also, but only 1/10 as often. I didn’t seem to make dialogue without them. That was before I started to call myself a writer.
    Betsy, you have great tools now days.

  12. Longtime copy editor. Handy website: http://wordcounter.net. Copy and paste ms into word counter. Not only will it point out how often a single word is used, it can be adjusted to citing oft-used two- and three-word phrases.

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