I am currently hard at work editing my 90K+ collection of short stories that will be published soon. As I go through this work and apply some of the things that I’ve learned editing other authors’ works, I found that I have some crutch words.
In public speaking, crutch words are things like ‘um’ or using the word ‘so’ to start sentences when there is a pause needed to collect your thoughts.
It’s a bit different in writing. In writing, crutch words can pop out at you during the editing process. This is partly true because enhancements to Microsoft Word’s grammar check actually point them out with nasty brown underlines (appropriate color).
The important thing to remember is, if you overuse a particular word or phrase, your reader will notice it and will start to get annoyed by the frequent repetition.
My Crutch Words
My worst crutch words that I see repeated over and over are ‘had’ and ‘that’. Here is an example of an unedited sentence from one of my short stories:
When he transferred BERTA and digital Rachel to the isolated server, he had left himself a back door to retrieve the system if necessary.
As you can see, the word had is in bold in this sentence. After editing it reads:
When he transferred BERTA and digital Rachel to the isolated server, he left himself a back door to retrieve the system if necessary.
Removing had makes no difference in the meaning of the sentence. The crutch word is gone and the sentence is still standing.
Here is an example with an unnecessary that.
“Yes, we do,” the simulation answered in a Rachel-like voice that was tempered with more anger than Ben had ever heard in the real Rachel’s tone.
In this example both that and was are unnecessary and can be removed.
“Yes, we do,” the simulation answered in a Rachel-like voice tempered with more anger than Ben had ever heard in the real Rachel’s tone.
Once again, no difference in the meaning and the sentence is cleaner.
Now that I’ve bared my soul and exposed one of my writing flaws, what about you? Do you use crutch words? If so, which ones?