Repeat After Me: Ridding Your Writing of Repetition

While search engine optimization (SEO) is on lighting fires on laptop keyboards these days, this post is not about leveraging key words on your blog(s). It’s about freeing your writing (essays, manuscripts, speeches, client work) from unnecessary repetition.

Pencil Shavings. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®It sneaks up on you; it’s so easy to overuse a word or description without realizing it.  Even if you don’t notice, others will. During a non-fiction writing class, my instructor pointed out that I had used the phrase “you’re so silly” in dialogue four times over six pages. How did I miss that?

Another example from my own work was that I repeated the word refrigerator in a scene where this kitchen appliance was being repossessed. So then I tried substituting with the descriptive phrase “avocado-colored rectangular box.” That didn’t work at all! My paragraph improved when I restructured the sentences so that I didn’t need the word refrigerator so much.

Repetitive writing can kill good work in any type of situation – from memoir to novels to press releases. One of the most over used words ever in press releases is “excited.” Or “thrilled.” How many times have you read “XYZ Company is excited to announce…”?

So what can you to avoid this?

  • Have friends read your writing. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important. People who know you well may be able to catch something you repeat in everyday conversations that spills into your prose.
  • Have people you don’t know well read your work. Some of the best writing buddies I have are not “friends.” We love working together but it helps that we don’t share the intimate details of our daily lives. It makes for good perspective.
  • Read your work out loud. It’s amazing what you can catch when you hear your own words. I recently met a writer who had nearly lost his voice because he’d spent the last two days reading his full manuscript to his wife.
  • Record yourself. This can be especially helpful as it can give you distance and a chance to make notes as you listen.

What are your tips? What’s your favorite tip for reviewing your own writing?

3 thoughts on “Repeat After Me: Ridding Your Writing of Repetition

  1. I’m here and I have decided that you are criticizing me.
    But that’s ok; I need it. I just wanted you to know that I read your document and will apply it to my writing.

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