Writing Session: Avoid Repetition of Words and Improve your Writing
A simple check, when editing, will ensure that you avoid repetition of words, and improve your writing.
Using the same word, several times close together in a text is irritating on the eye, and suggests a lack of appropriate vocabulary.
Even in published novels you can find examples which have slipped through and it is a fact that when we write quickly, to get our ideas down, it is very common to find, on reading it through that we are guilty of this simple ‘error’ in first drafts. It is not always avoidable and what we have written may be grammatically correct but can look clumsy and distract the reader.
Eg (Spotted in a published novel):
‘Her long silky black hair swayed around her waist, and she shook her head to enhance the effect.
The red dress she wore enhanced her curves…..’
There is nothing technically wrong but the use of the same verb, ‘to enhance’ twice, so close together is not artistically pleasing.
People tend to do this in speech all the time. If the topic is ‘things that enhance’ someone’s attractiveness then we might use it more than once while discussing them, which is probably why we tend not to notice ourselves doing it in a first draft.
Sometimes all that is necessary is to substitute another word, with judicious use of a thesaurus if necessary. Occasionally it is necessary to reconstruct…
(Oh dear, let’s try that again!)
Sometimes the simple solution is just to substitute another word, maybe with judicious use of a thesaurus. It may be better to reconstruct one or more sentences to avoid the repetition and at the same time improve the text, perhaps finding a stronger verb or a more appropriate adjective in the process.
Look at this example:
The Grave Digger
The cold rain dribbled down inside the collar of Saul’s shabby overcoat, so old it no longer offered much protection.
He looked to the left at the bundle, wrapped in old sacks on the ground at his side. He was tired, his old bones protesting at the unaccustomed physical effort.
The unimaginative, repeated use of the word ‘old’, three times in such a short passage, is further exacerbated by the similar, rhyming word ‘cold’, which looks so similar at first glance.
When writing, and making up the story as you go along, it does not stand out. As a piece written in a class exercise, when read out to the group it is also less obvious, partly because the listener is hearing the ‘story’ for the first time and focusing on that.
Also the word has varying stress in oral presentation; In the first instance the word ‘old’ would be stressed as it is piece of factual information about the coat.
In the second sentence ‘socks’ and ‘bones’ would be stressed orally, not the adjective ‘old’.
It is when you see it written that the repeated word looks so overused and dull.
A similar thing occurs when the pronoun ‘he’, or ‘she’, is used repeatedly, particularly at the beginning of a sentence. It looks even worse if it is ‘I’ that starts seven sentences in a row!
Write a short passage in no more than five minutes, in which virtually every sentence begins with ‘he’ or ‘she’, for example:
James needed a new car. He allocated Saturday to go looking for something suitable. He found a Ford that he quite liked early on in the day. He thought he should look at a few more and he found a Renault that looked good. He had just been about to go back for the Ford. He did not know what to do…….
Put your piece aside so that you can come back to it with a fresher eye later.
Rewrite ‘The Grave Digger’ to show how you would improve it, in particular with regard to the word ‘old’.
Share and discuss.
Discuss, in pairs, how you would improve the passage about James and his car hunt.
Now go back to your passage, from task one and rewrite that, improving it by varying the opening words of the sentences.
Share with the group and and discuss both versions saying why you made the changes that you did and whether there were other alternatives that you considered, or might have been used.
Category: Group Sessions. Tags: Appropriate Language, Creative Writing, Vocabulary, Revising,Words