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Anonymous asked: Can you please explain to people the need for word variation. I can’t stand it when the same word (such as the word numerous) is used ten times in a chapter. Change it up, don’t use the same words all the time unless it is used for emphasis or a way to embody a trait in your character somehow
It’s personal writing style to use some words more than others, but the Anon has a point. There’s good repetition, and there’s bad repetition. Changing up your word choice doesn’t mean you have to resort to some highly eloquent speech or anything. In fact, you should NEVER raid the thesaurus just for the sake of mixing it up.
There’s no rule for word variation. There’s no “you can only use the same word once every 500 words” or something. It’s something you want to be aware of, but if your character is more likely to say “like” instead of “such as,” it’s not bad writing to have them say “like” 90% of the time. That allows your narrator to have their own voice and their own preferred word bank. As such, I’d be more concerned about a lack of word variation in a small excerpt of text (like a paragraph or a page) as opposed to larger chunks like chapters or the book as a whole.
It’s an art, because while you don’t want to lean into bad repetition, you also don’t want to make things so complicated that you’ve lost your reader. You don’t want to jump through hoops to avoid repeating yourself. An example of this would be a word like “door,” where there really aren’t any synonyms for it. I mean, technically there are, like “portal” or “entry” or “ingress” or something, but I mean, if you’re just talking about the door to a bedroom, any of those words are highly inappropriate. A door can just be a door. It’s a matter of fancy footwork to keep things from dragging.
With a deep draw of breath, I stepped towards the door. This time I’d do it. I’d knock and I wouldn’t leave until she opened the door. Each step was firm with confidence, and far too soon, I stood in front of her door. I set my shoulders and raised my hand to knock. The proximity to her door almost made me turn away, but I was already decided. I knocked.
After a pause, the door opened on silent hinges.
With a deep draw of breath, I stepped towards her room. This time I’d do it. I’d knock and I wouldn’t leave until she let me in. Each step was firm with confidence, and far too soon, I stood in front of her door. I set my shoulders and raised my hand to knock. The proximity to the painted wood that hid my sister from the world almost made me turn away, but I was already decided. I knocked.
After a pause, the door opened on silent hinges.
If you’re worried about word variation, here are some things you can do to catch yourself:
- Try rewording your sentence. Even if you use the same word, if it’s used in a different spot in the sentence it’s not as annoying. If you start every sentence with “The door” then your lack of word variation is all the more glaringly obvious, since it’s also paired with a lack of sentence variation.
- Think of another way to say it, even if it’s not necessarily a synonym. In my example, I substituted “door” with “painted wood.” Not all painted wood is a door, but since the door was already mentioned, I can trust my reader to know what I’m talking about.
- Read it out loud. I know like, every writing advice thing says this and no one actually does it, but seriously. You will catch so much. Awkward sentences, missed words, inorganic dialogue. Plus if you’re alone and you don’t have to worry about listening in, you can get into it and give your characters all a different voice and call yourself a dork.
- Don’t raid the thesaurus. Please don’t. Please, please. For fun, I’m going to replace every usage of “door” with the order they’re listed for Word’s thesaurus. Granted, the differences between these synonyms for “door” should be more obvious than other words with more meanings, but any improper thesaurus raiding basically reads like the equivalent of this:
With a deep draw of breath, I stepped towards the entrance. This time I’d do it. I’d knock and I wouldn’t leave until she opened the gate. Each step was firm with confidence, and far too soon, I stood in front of her entry. I set my shoulders and raised my hand to knock. The proximity to her exit almost made me turn away, but I was already decided. I knocked.
After a pause, the access opened on silent hinges.
As you can see, it doesn’t make sense in some places, and maybe gives a weirdly sexual connotation in another. Definitely not the mood we’re aiming for.
If you’re not aware of which words you might be over using, here’s a handy dandy word counter thing for you! Simply paste in a chapter or however much, and it’ll tell you how many times you use certain words. Please be smart when using this. Obv you’re going to have a billion uses of “the” and “a” and stuff, so don’t go through trying to varying up your transitional and prepositional words. If you are using the same word (not including every “and” and “but”, like I said) maybe 10+ times in the same chapter, go through each instance and see if there’s a better way to say it, at least for a few of them. You can use the thesaurus. In fact, thesauruses are awesome. But be deliberate with which word you choose as your replacement. Make sure the connotation and the meaning fit up with what you’re going for.
And yes, the example was kind of sort of inspired by Frozen.—EAdding on:myriai said: Another thought, could you just replace the word “door” with it in some of the paragraph? “With a deep draw of breath, I stepped towards the door. This time I’d do it. I’d knock and I wouldn’t until she opened it…” Just a thought ^^;Ah, yes, I should have mentioned that! “It” is an easy replacement for any noun, and even though you don’t want to solely rely on it to avoid repetition, it can be used more often in a short time than the noun itself. Of course, “it” only works when replacing nouns. The same goes for using “he” or “she” instead of a character’s name. As far as mixing up adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc, it’s not as easy of a fix.