When you decide to write anything longer than one sentence, you’ll find that it’s very easy to use the same words again and again. (Like the word “again!”) Or perhaps you’re the kind of writer who just loves to use flowery, complicated, jubilant, explanatory adjectives.
This habit not only will make your writing flat and boring, but it will also do nothing to increase your desire to learn new words and use them cleverly and effectively.
One of the best ways to track down those pesky words that keep reappearing or announce to the world that you are a “Beginner” is to print out your manuscript and get a set of colored markers. Make yourself a color code and dig in. When you’re done, you’ll have a visual picture of your own writing habits that will probably shock you into becoming a better writer and editor.
So, here’s a sample of how you can color code your manuscript by either circling or highlighting the words in said color:
1. RED – adjectives
2. BLUE – adverbs
3. GREEN – being verbs, such as “am,” “is,” “was,” “were,” etc. (These words are passive voice; pitch them out and use stronger verbs for the active voice)
4. PINK – commas; many commas are unnecessary and/or misplaced
5. ORANGE – fancy vocabulary words; throw the rascals out and use clear, simple words
6. BROWN – metaphors and similes; yes, sometimes they’re cute and clever, but mostly they’re as boring as a sleeping dog and don’t add anything to your writing
7. BLACK – clichés and trite expressions; these rascals only reveal lazy writing; be creative with your words and phrases, and you’ll soon have a contract for that “next great American novel.”