Repetition, Repetition!


Copy-editing involves much more than finding errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Working with authors on their manuscripts, I recognize errors similar to those I made in my early writing.

One of the more common bad writing habits I’ve noticed in my editing jobs is the overuse of words and phrases.


We all have pet phrases that we tend to overuse. Watch for repeated words. If possible, avoid using the same word twice in one sentence and check for repetition within a paragraph. Often they are words we overuse even in our speech—some of mine were “maybe,” “just,” and “so”—but more than being annoying to the reader, what starts out to be only a bad habit can damage your writing in more serious ways.

If you know what your pet repeated words are you could use Find in your Word program and it will take you to each instance of the repeated word, giving you the option of changing it to something more interesting. I would wager that you’ll be shocked at the repetitions you’ll find when you look for some of your pet expressions. For example, have you noticed how many times I’ve used the word “pet” in this post? I rest my case.

Another method that is surprisingly simple but works very well is to read your work out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you find. You’ll make corrections automatically because what you wrote doesn’t “sound right” when read aloud.

Why not give it a try and read a page of your writing out loud?

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website




8 thoughts on “Repetition, Repetition!

  1. Hey Anneli. Did I tell you the story about the time I “we we’d” all over my paper? Ha. A critiquer told me that when I used the pronoun “we” a ton of times in one paragraph. I tend to use pronouns a lot. After I finish a chapter, I read it out loud. I also have a free program called Natural Reader that will read it out loud for you. Of course, the program has a computer sounding voice, but I use that as my last run through to catch anything that sounds awkward.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good one. 😉 WE are often unaware of how often WE use our favourite words. Or sometimes we just get on a roll and some words stick in our heads like when you get a song on the brain.I hadn’t heard of Natural Reader, but I’ll check it out.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It does get annoying! I think in our first drafts most of us tend to use some phrases over. It’s like getting a tune in your head and it keeps coming back. Some pet phrases are like that. The important thing is to get rid of those in the second draft (or sooner), and I’ve found that a good way to find the repetitions is to read out loud.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Reading aloud solves so many problems and helps with editing. That’s why in my creative writing classes, I ask my students to read each of their stories we write in class, out loud. They hear what needs to be changed, but they also hear how terrific their story is. Win/Win

        Liked by 1 person

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