NaNoWriMo: Five Repeated Words To Hunt Down

NaNoWriMo: Five Repeated Words To Hunt Down

Despite having to write the whole thing in 30 days, I’ve had the luxury of actually doing some editing on my NaNoWriMo novel. One of the key tactics? Using find and replace to eliminate the phrases I use too often. Here’s a few everybody should keep an eye out for.

On Saturday, after sequencing and then reading through my entire novel, I realised that there quite a few words which appeared far too often. That’s not surprising when you’re trying to produce a lot of text at speed, and you’re reluctant to delete stuff for fear of not reaching the grand total. Having topped the 50,000 word count goal and with a little time to spare, I figured I should try and eliminate the most obvious offences, and dedicated my Sunday calendar slot for novel work to that task.

For these editing activities, I switched away from FocusWriter and returned to Word (which also meant shifting back to my main work notebook). One particularly useful feature in Word 2010 is that when you perform find on a given word or phrase, it presents a navigable list of all the examples it finds. This is a really handy feature, and I found myself quite annoyed when it didn't work (Work won't build the list if you have more than about 100 instances in your document).

Some of the repeat offenders are peculiar to my own novel, so I won't mention them here. But there were five words I hunted down which I think any writer would do well to tame:

"Pretty" (and "pretty much")

I noticed very early on that I was using the word "pretty" and the phrase "pretty much" far too often, and even contemplated using that as the title for a while. But being aware of it didn't stop me using it. On re-reading, the vast majority of uses were superfluous, so I killed about 90% of them.


Like "pretty", this is a weak qualifier. I am in control of my fictional universe! Probability is mine to determine, and I was determined to get rid of most instances of this empty phrase.


We noted recently that "frankly" and phrases of its ilk often suggest that the speaker is being anything but frank. I'd used it once or twice for that purpose, which was fine, but many of the other examples felt like filler. The often-expounded "show, don't tell" rule suggests getting rid of them was wise.


Nice is an empty phrase, signifying not much at all. Ideally, I'd only use it to refer to a place name or a biscuit, or to imply that a character was dull.

Colons and semicolons

Not problematic in themselves, but symptomatic of a bigger problem. I already know that writing over-long sentences is one of a my major faults. Extending them further with a parallel idea or a list doesn't make them any more readable. In many cases, the semicolons were able to be replaced with fullstops, while the colon-toting sentences were easily massaged into a friendlier shape.

With that task done, I can quietly proclaim that the novel is finished (or at least that the NaNoWriMo draft of it is complete). On Wednesday, I'll post my conclusions about the project.


  • 1k left to go, and I suspect I shall need to go over 1k to round it up nicely. Camping in a coffee shop untill I finish so I can verify tonite, one day a head.
    The editing scares me. I need to have a break from it though

  • I don’t have a problem with limited “probably” and “frankly” usage, but “nice” and “pretty” should be omitted from the English language.

    As for semicolons, a written statement/thought can be downright beautiful to the eye and mind when a semicolon is used correctly.

  • My favourite word processor, ‘Atlantis’ has a set of quirky and really useful features including ‘Overused words’, ‘Frequencies’ and overlong sentences tools. They help my writing no end. Haven’t had time to run them over my 50k+ words yet though.

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