I have a bad habit of overusing pet words in conversation. Every once in a while I’ll seize on an appealing new word and insert it at every opportunity.
Often I’m unaware of this repetition until someone points it out to me. Usually that someone is my youngest sister.
“Is ‘draconian’ the new word of the day?” she’ll ask helpfully. “That’s the third time you’ve used it today.” (I figure her obsessive need to point out my verbal flaws is a youngest sister thing.)
I’ll think back and realize that yes, I have been overdoing draconian. I’m on a draconian diet. The city council passed draconian new trash-day parking fines. And so on.
“Epiphany” is another word I’ve pounded into the dust. If I ever have another epiphany in my lifetime I’ll have to keep it to myself, because that word has been banned in my circle of close friends and relatives. I call them my Beta Chatters.
I’m always looking for signs of Word Repeatus Syndrome in my writing. And I usually find it. I’ve learned to do a global edit for any suspicious words. Suspect words include any that I particularly like. For example, “halcyon” would be a word I’d check, just because I like how it sounds. I’m probably a recidivist repeater of that term. I’d also check ‘recidivist’. If the word appears more than two times in the manuscript, or once in a chapter, I rewrite it.
I always check for repetition when a beta reader asks about the meaning of a word. You can get away with using an unfamiliar word once, but do it twice and you look like you’re trying to be a pretentious know-it-all. (See last Friday’s post).
What about you? Do you have a tendency to overuse favorite words? Do you make a special effort to root them out during edit?