Smart Edit – An Overview

Smart Edit: An Overview
Terry Odell

Smart EditLast time, I mentioned I used a program/app called Smart Edit to fine tune my manuscripts. I said I’d go into more detail if there was interest, and frankly, I’m in editing mode on the new book, and don’t have the brain cells to spare to come up with a different topic.

**Note. I am simply sharing my opinions and how I use the program. I get zilch from the company for my posts.

Those of us who don’t have an unlimited budget rely on the “tricks” and for me, Smart Edit helps tighten the manuscript, and finds things my eyes have missed.

I have the ‘inside Word’ add on, so I can work right in the manuscript, but there’s also a copy-and-paste version. One thing I like about the ‘inside Word’ version is everything is previewed in context, so if it’s fine as is, you can skip to the next. If you want to make changes, you click on that result and it’ll take you right to that passage in the manuscript.

The program (sorry, but to me, an ‘app’ is something like Angry Birds, so that’s the term I’m going to use) runs checks on a variety of potential pitfalls. The obvious is “repeated words” which, despite my having my own checklist of crutch words, always finds new ones. There’s also “repeated phrases.”

Beyond that are searches for misused words, redundancies, risqué words, clichés, adverbs, proper nouns (good for finding those places where you’ve written “Helper” instead of “Hepler” for your protagonist), and looking back at Elaine’s post last week, speaker tags.

One thing to understand. SmartEdit doesn’t edit. It points out things you, as the author, are in control of, and every decision is yours to make. It’s not perfect, but I’ve found it’s a good starting point.

Here are some examples (You should be able to enlarge them by clicking.)
In addition to overused words and phrases, here are some of the other searches it will perform

Smart EditAnd some of my results:
This was a search for adverbs.

Smart Edit Adverb search
And for cliches
Smart Edit Another search that can be helpful is dialogue tags, although this is one where the program isn’t as accurate. It’s flagged words as tags that aren’t written as such. Again, the user is responsible for checking. (This was taken from a 3500 word short story run, which is why the overall counts are low. It does go back to Elaine’s post about using said, which is my go-to dialogue tag.)

Smart EditThe program doesn’t correct your grammar. I know people use other programs for that, although I don’t usually have trouble with grammar, so I’m more interested in streamlining and clarity. I beta tested a grammar program once, and it didn’t get anything right.

I’m paying an editor, you say. Why can’t I let her find and fix these? I could, but most editors charge by the hour. I know of one who charges by the word. If I can spend those hours taking care of a lot of these excesses, it saves time—and what can be significant money.There are other editing programs out there, but I’ve found SmartEdit works best for me. While I have a list of my words to destroy, somehow, new once crop up in each manuscript, and having this program find the sneaky ones I wouldn’t have thought to look for helps.

Do you use any automated programs for editing? How have they worked for you?



Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Watch for her upcoming release, Deadly Options, due out in late February.

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Banished Words 2020

Banished Words 2020

Terry Odell

Banished WordsOne of my final editing tasks is removing overused words. I have my list of offenders, and I run the manuscript through SmartEdit, which will find more I was unaware of.

But “overused” can’t be decided based solely on number of uses. It depends on the word.

We all have words and phrases we like to use, often to the point of overuse. Maybe we’re not even aware we’re using them. When we’re writ­ing, they seem to sneak into our man­u­scripts via our fin­gers, as if the brain isn’t involved at all.

Lit­tle words, like “just” and “really” and “well” are com­monly listed among words that don’t add any­thing to the man­u­script other than giv­ing our brains time to catch up with what we’re try­ing to write. They’re the equiv­a­lent of the “um” in speak­ing.

Big “fancy” words, or “unusual” words are in another cat­e­gory. Miasma? Efful­gent? Par­si­mony? They’re going to jump out at a reader, and should be used spar­ingly, per­haps only once or twice in an entire man­u­script. I recall an author using halcyon repeatedly, and it made me stop after the second time.

Recently, one of my critique partners asked about my use of libation, bringing up an important point. How many characters used the term? Often, it’s good to have specific vocabulary words used by specific characters.

While I’m looking at my repeated words, I will check for con­text. Is it dia­logue? Does it enhance the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion? Then, I look to see how long it’s been since the last time I used the word. (There’s that “you’re on page XXX” thing at the bot­tom of Word.)

If it’s a com­mon word, my goal is at least 10 pages between uses. “Medium” words, maybe 30–50 pages. And those big fancy ones? If they’re truly the char­ac­ter speak­ing, and not autho­r­ial intru­sion, once is enough. Not a rule, just something I consider.

And, of course, the caveat that any “fancy” words are appro­pri­ate to the char­ac­ter, the genre, and the time­frame of the book. If you’re read­ing a Regency romance, the lan­guage is going to be totally dif­fer­ent from a contemporary.

There are other words one might want to avoid. Every year, Lake Superior State University publishes its “Banished Words List” of words based on misuse, overuse, and general uselessness. Their list for 2020 contains the following.

Most nominated

  • quid pro quo

Words that attempt to make something more than it is

  • Artisanal
  • Curated
  • Influencer

Words banished for pretentiousness or imprecision

  • Literally
  • I mean
  • Living my best life
  • Mouthfeel

Those darn millennials!

  • Chirp
  • Jelly (Abbreviation of jealous)
  • Totes (Abbreviation of totally)
  • Vibe/vibe check

To see why these were selected, go here.

What about you? Any words that jump out at you when you’re reading, either mundane or unusual?



Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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