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Get thee behind me, Weasel Word.

“We’ve all done that thing when you’re writing a first draft and you look at your prior day’s work to see where you left off.  Three hours later, while you’re debating the merits of moment versus minute in your third paragraph, you realize you haven’t written a new word. It’s important to turn off your inner editor while you write your first draft. But then what? What happens if we forget to turn it back on?

Weasel words.

We all have them. Personally, I love -ing words, was, and just. Others to watch for are looked, saw, felt, and any named emotions.  This works for finding trends as well. We all want to show instead of tell, but what if we show things the same way all the time? Eyebrows raising, lips quirking, or hands on hips can all be easy go-to actions. But, if overused, they lose their impact. 

What to do?

Enter, highlight function. For each weasel word or tendency I have, I use a different color of highlight and the Edit–>Find All feature in Word. 

It’s awesome…well, it can be a little depressing to see your manuscript look like it has a bad case of measles, but its helpful.

Another helpful tool can be a word cloud.  With these programs, the most frequently used words are shown the largest.  One useful site is You’ll spot your own weasel words right away. Plus, it’s kind of cool to see your novel as a visual art form.

So what about you? What are your weasel words?

  1. Debbie10-20-11

    LOVE Wordle. Hadn’t thought about using it for editing purposes. That’s brilliant!

  2. Jenny Carlisle10-21-11

    Sometimes my characters’ hearts race or pound so much I’m afraid they’ll end up in the cardiac ward! Great idea to do a search for these “weasels”, but only after finishing the first draft, right?

  3. Sheila Covey11-05-11

    I just love using the word JUST and and and and *LOL* Great post! Sadly, one I definitely need to read again and again . . .

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