Are you stuck in a word rut? Here’s how to break out.
Lemme set the scene: you’re sat editing your work. It reads well and you’re starting to feel pretty damn sassy. Then you notice something—you’ve used the same word twice in the same paragraph. Here it is again in the next sentence. And again in the outro.
What the hell?
Seems clear—you’re stuck in a word rut and you need help, my friend.
Why do I keep using the same words over and over again?
Let’s be clear here—I’m not talking about works like ‘the’, ‘and’ or ‘a’. I’m talking about familiar go-to words that get cracked out each time you’re trying to articulate something.
I used to work with a client that adored the word ‘deliver’. They were ‘delivering solutions’, ‘delivering outcomes’, they had software that ‘delivered insights’, they had a team that ‘delivered’.
When editing work written by them in-house, I would often dig up several ‘delivers’ per page. I’d make it my personal mission to root them out and cut them from the copy. This is the kind of repetition I’m talking about.
I couldn’t find any specific psychological root for word repetition, but it’s my theory that everyone has an internal dictionary of words and phrases they love to use when describing certain things. Semantic satiation might also have a part to play in word re-use. According to experts, when we repeat a word enough times, it loses all meaning. It’s also been suggested that we reuse certain words because we want to make ourselves perfectly clear.
Whether you notice repeated words or not, your reader certainly does. Overuse of certain words is distracting and annoying. It also marks the writer out as having a low vocabulary and not being a very mindful writer.
Take Twilight author, Stephenie Meyer, for example. The most annoying thing about her books (apart from everything) was Meyer’s insistence on perpetually recycling the same handful of words. She’s become known as both a dictionary avoider and a dictionary abuser, depending on who you talk to.
And that could be you. So, listen up!
How to avoid word repetition in your writing
1) Use the online thesaurus or synonym suggester
The thesaurus wasn’t a type of dinosaur that died out when the comet hit. It’s a wicked tool for breaking out of a word rut. If you find the same word popping up, head off to the online thesaurus for an alternative. You can also try the synonym suggester in your word processing software, too.
2) Check out someone else’s work
Woah, woah, woah! I’m not suggesting plagiarism. You can get a lot of excellent inspo from writing forms which are similar to the one you’re working on. For example—I find writing product pages can become very samey. Instead of reaching for the same worn phrases over and over again, I check out other product pages which sell similar items and explore the approaches they’ve taken.
3) Use the customers’ language
Rule one of writing great copy for business is to use the language your customer uses. Instead of continually regurgitating your own favourite words, try using some of theirs. Check reviews, feedback and testimonials to see how they talk about your product or service.
4) Edit like a mother lover
I could write an entire blog post on editing. And I have. Serial word abusers should make a point of adding certain words or phrases to their editing checklist. When you’re done with your first draft, run over the document a few times using your editing checklist to correct it. You can also try reading the copy out loud so you can identify clunky, repetitive sentences more easily.
Kinda feels like we’re done here, guys. Which words do you accidentally keep using? Have you noticed someone else doing it? Sling a comment below and share.