Thursday, September 17, 2015

When Weed Words Creep into Your Writing

By Cyle Young @CyleYoung

Have you ever read through your manuscript only to realize the same words keep popping up like weeds in a garden?

If your answer is yes, relax—we all do it.

In the flurry of keystrokes, some words just appear. You didn’t want them. You don’t remember thinking them. But nevertheless, they sprout like common weeds.

Your mind can often add unintentional words to your writing. Especially when you are rushed to meet a deadline, or when you are specifically trying to avoid writing certain words.
Many of these weed words are common to most writers.
10 Common Weed Words:
  1. Up
  2. Down
  3. Back
  4. Around
  5. Many
  6. Started
  7. Began
  8. That
  9. Like
  10. So

These words aren’t always bad. They can be used in your writing, but they frequently symbolize lazy thought. Feel free to use them sparingly

In modern day vernacular, these words fill up air space. A person speaks at around 140 words per minute and can only type on average around 40 words per minute. Our minds are accustomed to using extra words to communicate a thought or idea through speech. When we are writing we must weed out the extra words, which although they be acceptable in a spoken context, should not be included in concise writing.

It is possible to weed out these words as you are writing your manuscript, but more than likely you will need to create custom searches to help you eradicate the weeds during your final edits.

In many of the most popular writing software programs, such as Word, Pages, Scrivener, there are searches to find each use of a word and to quickly determine whether to replace or delete it.

Stylistically these words can and should be included in your characters dialogue. Most people in real life speak using weed words. If you want your characters to have vibrancy in their dialogue, utilize some of these weed word to help bring your characters to life. But don’t overdue it.

Not every character should use weed words in their speech. For example, a college professor should have a more dynamic vocabulary, and a small child should speak in simple one or two syllable words with a higher frequency of weed word usage.

Spend some time scouring through your manuscript to discover your own weed word vocabulary.

This list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it will give you a place to begin. As you discover the weeds that sprout in your writing garden, add them to your own list. Just remember to also add them to your final editing process.

Cyle Young is thankful God blessed him with the uniqueness of being an ADD-riddled…SQUIRREL!...binge writer. Not much unlike the classic video game Frogger, Cyle darts back and forth between various writing genres. He crafts princess children’s stories, how-to advice for parents, epic fantasy tales, and easy readers.


  1. Great post. I will print this page and check for these words in my manuscript. Thank you. I love your bio. I truly understand squirrels.

  2. We have become lazy. We would all do well to return to the ancient path, peer into the suffering poet, Job, and "search out through the rock in gloom and deep shadow...hewing out channels through the rock" until we keep only that which is precious (Job 28:3,10). I am inspired by Job, my passion burns an unquenchable flame when I eat these Divine choice morsels of words. We don't see much of the common filler words in Scripture. If that is where we stay, within the beauty, creativity, and lines and breaks of Scritpure...we, as writers, will all be better for it, and our readers will catch glimpses of Holy.

  3. the two worst weeds in my writing garden were "as" and "that". I've managed to keep them under control and they rarely show their little seedy heads. Once they get their roots down and anchored they can be quite prolific. We just have to remember that even weeds have their place but we still have to show them who's boss.

  4. Addng: just, barely. That last one popped up in my last manuscript way too often. I didn't notice till I was reading the draft.

  5. "That" is my weed word. I've been able to tame that lion. And most recently, after submitting two manuscripts to a writing contest, the word "as" came back as a weed word! Wow, it was almost invisible to my eye ;-) Good and informative post. Thanks.


  6. Thanks for this list, Cyle. I see a few I need to add to my list.

    "Very" peppers my writing. Instead of saying something is "very good," I could use excellent, impressive, or valuable. I tend to overuse "more," too. I search for them in my manuscripts.

  7. Sarina Rose, writing vintage romancesSeptember 30, 2015 at 10:33 PM

    State of being verbs: am, is are, were etc Choose something active. Phrases like again and again,
    got up, sat down, kneel down, stand up, and then, marry me, (Oh, just joking on the last one.)

  8. Hmmm, good post. My weed word is definitely: very.
    I'll change it, thanks!