Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hunting For Weasel Words? by Renee-Ann

We all have them, those unnecessary words that sneak into our writing and clutter up the story. Today, author Renee-Ann Giggie provides some of those weasels to eliminate from your writing. -- Sandy

Renee-Ann: Last summer, in a blog post by Zoe McCarthy, I read about weasel words. It’s where I heard the expression for the first time. I’ve since put it into practice and use it a lot. What are weasel words?

They’re overused words. For the most part, they’re not necessary in your manuscript. All they do is weaken your story. You don't want that. In many cases, they tell rather than show. The sad thing is there are a lot of them.

On the flip side, you've heard the expression, ‘There's a time and place for everything.’ Not all weasel words need to come out. Some of them do have their place in the text.

When I've typed The End and I'm ready to edit, the first thing I do is rid my manuscript of unnecessary words. Using the CTRL key + F to do a thorough search of any words will show me how many times it is used from beginning to end.

Often it's best to use a stronger word. Other times, it’s just as good to delete it. When uncertainty creeps in, and I’m not sure whether or not to take it out, I use my FLIP dictionary. It’s an amazing tool to help me find replacement words. To be honest, I can't say enough about it.

What are those pesky words? Let me give you some examples.

THAT: I'm guilty as charged. We use it a lot in dialogue, but is it necessary? Sometimes yes, but other times, no. A great rule of thumb I’ve heard from many authors, if the sentence reads well without it, remove it. 

VERY: Show your readers how very big/small, tall/short, hot/cold, strong/weak, etc it is, and you won't need to use very. If you show, you may be able to delete several adverbs from your manuscript.

THING: What thing? Say what it is you're referring to. Instead of: Things couldn’t get any worse. 

What thing? Her life? His job? The weather? Say it. Paint a picture for your readers, draw them into the story. 

BEGIN / START: My editor once told me, “if it began, the action took place. Say it.” 

The baby began to cry.

HE SAID / SHE SAID: Although those are not categorized as weasel words, we tend to overuse them. First of all, if there are two people in the room, the reader knows who's talking with each new paragraph. For clarification, you may want to use an action verb, before or after the dialogue, such as: 

John scratched his head. “Are you serious?” 
“You bet.” Her smile brightened the room.

Here’s the link to Zoe’s blog where you’ll find more weasel words you may want to be on the lookout for or get rid of.

Happy writing and have fun hunting. 

What are those weasel words you're constantly having to be on guard against in your writing?


Renee-Ann Giggie's writing began early but it remained nothing more than a hobby until 2009 when she penned her first novel. She’s a member of several writing groups and is no stranger to Christian writers’ conferences. Her latest novel, Emma’s Prayer (Feb 2016), is the story of a teen mom who puts her son up for adoption, but soon changes her mind and sets out to get him back. Is it too late? Click HERE for Emma’s Prayer.

She’s now working on a third novel. She and her husband live in New Brunswick, Canada.