A guy’s guide to ick

I’m trying something new today — a blog hop run by Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW). For those new to my blog, yes, I’m a guy, and yes, I write romance. I’ve written for Silhouette, but these days I write science fiction with romance and humor.

The writing prompt for this week’s blog is Words that make me go Ick!


This is a hard challenge for me because really, it depends on context. I’d rather not read clinical descriptions of body parts, but if I ever decided to read 50 Shades they’d come with the territory. I’d definitely rather not read about blood and violence, but sometimes gory words are appropriate.

So I’m going to focus instead on little words that, if overused, bother the heck out of me.

  • that — I know I used it in the previous sentence, but it can often be deleted without affecting clarity.
  • it — Yeah, yeah, I just now used it, but ‘it’ can be vague and sometimes confusing if readers have to figure out what ‘it’ refers to.  For example, change the previous sentence to “Yeah, yeah, I just now used the word twice…”
  • of — Trimming words is always a good thing, so I search for ‘of’.  If appropriate, I change the shriek of the warning klaxon to the warning klaxon’s shriek.  Saves two words.  Over the length of a book — sorry; make that a book’s length — two words here and there add up.
  • very — ‘Very unique’ and ‘unique’ mean the same darned thing. Not only is ‘very’ redundant, it suggests the writer isn’t sure whether something is unique or not. And don’t get me started on ‘very, very unique’!
  • really — ditto.
  • just — ditto.
  • about — Is the hero about six feet tall? If I want to imply the heroine is guessing, I’ll keep ‘about’ but otherwise it’s gone. A lot of times, deleting ‘about’ gets rid of wishy washy writing.

There are other ‘ick’ words, but these are some of the ones I search and destroy while editing my stories.

What are your ‘ick’ words?

Effing Feline divider

Click here to view other writers in this blog hop.



  1. OMG! You hit several of the common calls I make in editing. Overused words, vague words, overused pronouns, very, just, all. . . there have been a few times I sent the manuscript back to the author with a list of things for them to do for self-editing before sending it back to me. I agree with your assessments whole heartedly!

    1. Have you read “The 10% Solution” by Ken Rand? He discusses these words and numerous other things to search and destroy when doing a self-edit. Since you’re an editor you probably know the sorts of things he discusses, but I’ve found it useful for my own writing. It’s sort of like Weightwatchers for stories.

  2. Hi Ed. Just hopping on over. I like the way you handled this theme.

    1. Thanks, Shari. I aim to make my writing as lean as possible, and one of these days I may actually succeed.

  3. Totally agree!! All these words drag down writing.

    1. Lean writing is easier to read, IMO.

  4. Alicia Coleman · · Reply

    I’m guilty of overused words as well. Thanks for the tip on “The 10% Solution.”

    1. BTW, I don’t know the author of The 10% Solution and have no connection with the book. Thanks for stopping by, Alicia!

  5. I write what’s in my head and cull the overused words during editing. It’s amazing how many times I use certain words (that, just, really, even…all leap to mind)! I’ll have to check out the 10% Solution.

  6. I can say that I’m very guilty of using some of those above words. 🙂 I do try to weed them out now that I’m aware of things, but it’s a live and learn. Always trying to find ways to improve my craft.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: