Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Using words that are a no no?

I have a list of words compiled from several writing articles, blog posts, etc....words that are supposedly big no nos. You should avoid these words at all costs and many writers go through their work and search specifically for these words and find ways to eliminate them. The words: was, had, like, been, just, etc.... My biggest is 'was'.

Now I have to ask...are established writers banned from using these words or just newbies???

I have been editing a short piece for a few weeks now...perfecting it before I start submitting it out. I have been doing my word searches and proudly cut a decent portion of 'was' from my story. Yesterday I picked up a newly published romance novel from the library...started reading it last night. With my current edits, I am highly aware of these no no words...and counted 3 instances of 'was' in one paragraph. The author is very popular, NYT bestselling author. Is it okay for her to overuse the no no words? Can she get away with it because she has sold thousands, maybe millions of books???


  1. It's not that you can't use the words, but should only use them where they are necessary or add to the story as a whole. Completely eliminating the word was would likely make a book awkward.

    When you become a famous author, you do probably get a lot more slack from your editors. And it's probably easy to get lazy and not proof your own work a hundred times.

  2. I think you're allowed to use these words, not just the highly successful writers. But, it doesn't work when it becomes an unhealthy pattern. With "was" the problem most people have with it is that you often use it for a tense that can usually be turned into past tense. You can get the same point across with few words and the writing will feel stronger because of it. I've noticed that many many writers use these no no words all the time. It's fine to use them as long as they don't get annoying.

  3. I did reword a bunch of them and do feel the piece is stronger because of it....but there are tons of "was" instances I left because they just needed to be there. Can't take them all would sound ridiculous!!! LOL!! I just wonder how an established author gets away with 3 instances all in one paragraph. Is it distracting to the average reader...probably me, yes. But I have a heightened awareness of these no no words right now.

  4. I tend to overuse the word "that." I had the same experience as you, though. I recently read a NYT Besteselling author and she used "that" far more than I am even guilty of. Go figure!

  5. Please don't isolate these words! The key is looking at them in the phrase their in, and what makes them grammatically weak in your writing. Was is not always bad. Neither is any of the other words. They're just words. However, I know they're easy to overuse. The problem isn't usually the word, but something deeper. I've found that when I focus more on active writing these problems go away. But that takes a lot of practice.

    This is a great post. Something I might think about and respond to on my blog. Thanks!

  6. There are def. different rules for pubbies. :-) ONce you have sales, I think the publisher lets you write however you want. LOL!