Highlight to Success

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor/ Editing Addict]

Editor Tip: Highlight to Success

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, the words remain hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the words become machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The words are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact of the words on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutch words you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

Have you noticed the number of times a variation of word has been used in these two paragraphs? Ten times in a ninety-five word count. A deft killer of writing, hiding in plain sight. Crutch words.

What are the most popular crutch words?

They are the small ones. Innocuous. Overlooked in read-throughs, and missed in proofing: and, had, that, my, he, she, it, her, him, said, looked, saw, turned, smiled, be, is, was, were, been.

Steps to becoming crutch-free:

1. Search [Edit/Find All] your manuscript for each crutch word listed above. You might be surprised how many times they pop up in your book.

2. Highlight all occurrences of the word you’re searching for (e.g. that)

a. How many highlights are clustered together?

b. If you feel annoyed seeing all the highlights…

(1) …guess how your readers feel?

(2) Time to fix it.

3. Rework the areas where the highlights show up clustered together

a. Many can simply be deleted without changing the meaning

(1) The man that was sitting at the table, told her that she was beautiful.

(2) The man, sitting at the table, told her she was beautiful.

b. Some can be reworded, or reordered, to strengthen the writing.

First paragraphs with highlight method:

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, the words remain hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the words become machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The words are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact of the words on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutch words you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

First paragraphs reworded:

Every writer—no matter how strong a wordsmith—has at least one crutch word. To the author, it remains hidden, and unseen, but to the reader, the writing becomes machine-gun weapon rounds every time they read them.

The weaknesses are different for each author, just as style and genre differ. The impact on the readers, however, remains the same. The more crutches you have, the greater the possibility you will lose your readership. The pain of hitting word after word becomes greater than the desire to keep reading.

Once you master this, you will keep your writing alive, and retain your readership. It’s a tedious task the first two or three times, but it will eventually be second nature to you.

Questions for the editor to answer next time:

[by Billi Joy Carson, Senior Editor / Editing Addict
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