What are Your “Weasel” Words?

To kick off 2021, I chose editing for this month’s theme. I realized that I don’t have much posted about editing and thought I should fill that gap. It’s hard to have writing prompts about editing, so I will have to branch out for my Monday Sparks this month. But I did want to ask you what are your “weasel” words?

I’m borrowing “weasel” words from the authors of Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel. These are also called “weed” words, words that pop up far too often in a manuscript, usually in the first draft. I sometimes deliberately leave in a “weasel” word when I’m writing my first draft because I don’t want to break the flow. When I go back to edit, I watch out for those words and try to replace them with something better. I can get away with more “weasel” words in dialogue, but if I over use certain words, although it’s in character, readers will get bored or irritated.

Here are a few of my “weasel” words:

Just and only. I like to be precise when I speak, but in writing, these two words usually don’t add much meaning.

Eyes, smile, and grin. Because many readers expect a more cinematic experience in books, describing a characters’ body language and facial expressions is a way to cue them into the characters’ feelings. But I tend to overuse what the eyes and mouths look like. I’m trying to broaden descriptions to include how characters carry themselves and their mannerisms.

So what are your “weasel” words?

7 thoughts on “What are Your “Weasel” Words?

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  1. Good point about trying to further elaborate on emotions beyond the eyes and mouths! I also overuse just and only, and since reading “Understanding Show, Don’t Tell…” I’ve noticed how often I used while and as, so I’m trying to replace those.

    1. I use as a lot, but sometimes I feel like I need to to vary my sentence length. I need to reread that section in “Understanding Show, Don’t Tell”, Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I overuse “just”, “only”, “things”–and unfortunately, many more!

    One tip I came across: when I don’t like a word or don’t know what word to use in a first draft, I type XXXXX. When I see those later on, I know to do some revising or checking there.

  3. Thanks for the editing help. “Writer to Writer” by Cecil Murphey isn’t an editing book, but it does contain tips that would apply to the editing stage, as well as to overall writing process. Because it started out as a blog, the topics are brief. It is (or was) a bit pricey, but for me it was worth it. It’s a great reference book to have on hand.

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