#Editingtip: Kill Your Echoes

No matter how many words you know in the English language, you’re bound to use a handful over and over again. I’ve never been so aware of this as the hours tick down to the release of my first book, The Pursual. These words can become echoes in your story – words that jump off the page to the reader. And not in a good way. Some words will always disappear when a reader sees them. Think of he, she, says, said, a etc. Those words are used so often in the English language that they aren’t special anymore. We don’t notice them in a sentence most times.

Echoes are words that haven’t achieved that ‘disappearing’ status and thus stand out when you read them. When they stand out, they pull the reader from being in the story, making her blink and say to herself, “Didn’t he just use that word a few paragraphs ago?”

Image result for CONFUSED GIF

What’s an echo for me might not be an echo for you yet, there seem to be some words that typically achieve echo status. They include very, see/saw, begin/began, start, just, only, a little, only. When you see these words in your story, consider rewriting the sentence to eliminate them. BUT … only if doing so doesn’t change your character’s (or your writing) voice or throw off the flow of your story. Personally, I find that removing my echoes strengthens my sentence structure and forces me to write what I mean to say as plainly as possible.

In my writing, these are the words I seek and destroy –

  • Turn
  • Scowl
  • Glare
  • Look
  • Glower
  • Glance
  • See
  • Watch
  • Eye
  • Frown
  • Try
  • Quiet
  • Quick
  • Fast
  • Silent
  • Pull
  • Clear
  • Sound
  • Voice
  • Tone
  • Like
  • Face
  • Stare
  • Contort
  • Anger
  • Neck
  • Puzzle
  • Sudden(ly)
  • Thought
  • Squint
  • Plead
  • Remains
  • Comfortable
  • Mask
  • Thud
  • Irritated
  • Pain
  • Shake
  • Shaking
  • Breath
  • Sigh (in relief)
  • Frustrate(d)
  • Gulp
  • Sip
  • Swallow
  • Danger(ous)
  • (Un)Fortunately
  • Sadly
  • After
  • All
  • Disappoint
  • Shove
  • Stop
  • Spin
  • Pivot
  • Gaze
  • Look

Whew! That’s a lot of them and if I’m being honest, that’s not everything. Still, I think it’s worth it to check for troublesome words that don’t add to the story.

Here are some great resources for learning about echoes, editing and fiction writing in general –

Eliminating Echoes in Our Writing

What is an “Echo?” Tips To Axe These Repeat Offenders

Forty Four Words to Seek and Destroy

Editing Tip: 10 Words to Search For in Your Manuscript

Echoes — Repeat Offenders

Do you have a few (or many) echoes you keep an eye on? Let me know! And don’t forget, my book The Pursual is coming! You can join the mailing list to learn more plus receive free and exclusive content.


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