I got some feedback the other day on a novel I wrote and while most of it was quite positive (Yay!), the reviewer did take me to task for my use of the words “And” and “But”.
It was interesting feedback on a number of levels, firstly because I am aware that I use them way too often as a crutch, I just never thought others would notice. Also, like many people I say words like “uh” and “like” way too much.
I think we all have words that we default to in different circumstances. Take, for example, words like “epic” or “beast” which are being used by some elementary school kids I know or for those of a certain age “totally” and “rad”.
Our word choices can not only effect the way we talk but it can also seep into, and influence, our stories. Sometimes all it takes is a single word and a writer has set the scene and established a time and place for readers.
For instance, a child going to middle school in 1982 may have been influenced by the Valley Girls craze at the time and said “Grody to the max,” while a child of the 90s may have copied Full House’s Michelle Tanner with “You got it, dude.”
“Y’all” might evoke a reader to imagine a southern belle or a person living on a ranch, while “Jolly Good” might conjure up a British gentleman at the pub.
So what does it mean for my stories that I use “and,” “but” way too often? It means I need to slow down and find a better way to rephrase my sentence or scene. The result will be a richer narrative for readers.
Your Homework: Take a look at what you’ve written. Do you have a word or phrase that you use too often? Can you use a word or phrase to indicate place or time? What impact would using that word have in your story? If it will make the story richer, go for it! If it will sound too cliche, skip it. And if you do choose to use the word try not to follow my lead and overuse it!