Have you ever read a book where a word keeps popping up? I recently read a book that had a paragraph where three sentences began with and then. Another highly praised English author I read had me gritting my teeth at her use of began. It appeared over one hundred times in her otherwise great novel.
This kind of repetition can pull a reader out of a story, so I save lists of — words to use instead of — because it’s easy in a manuscript to repeat favoured vocabulary. I also have a short list of words I over use — that, looked, walked, relieved, for example. The list raises my awareness when I’m at the editing stage.
But opposing this suggestion is a tip I learned from author, Julie H. Ferguson about repeated words.
There’s one word I ignore that authors can repeat. I’ve seen lists of words to use instead of said. This one I ignore. According to Julie, readers rarely notice the number of times a writer uses said. It’s a necessary speech tag, and while there’s other ways to let the reader know who’s speaking, the saids don’t matter. It’s every other word we need to focus on.