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6rant6's avatar

What do you overuse in your writing?

Asked by 6rant6 (13692points) February 17th, 2011

When you edit your own writing, are there things that you notice that you use so often that you find it distracting?

I use the phrase “weigh in” a lot; no idea why, but now I flinch when I find it. I use “really” like it was the space bar.

How about you? Any writing habits you’d wish you didn’t have?

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41 Answers

dreamer31's avatar

Really, exclamation points and capital letters to get my point across!!

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I can get verbose sometimes.

Jeruba's avatar

I overuse “really” too.

People tend not to be aware of these word ruts that they get into, but just about every writer has them. When I edit a long document, I always see them. I edited one book in which the author used “enormous” or “enormously” on nearly every page.

I wish I were as conscious of my own habits of overuse as I am of other people’s. I think my faults are not so much repetition of words as complex constructions: too many long sentences with subordinate clauses, parenthetical expressions, qualifiers, compound verbs, embedded lists, etc., etc.—all of which parse grammatically but may still amount to a dense fog.

jerv's avatar

Parenthesis, commas, and semi-colons.

I tend to think in a “multi-track” way, and since writing is (for lack of a better term) a linear monophonic thing, I need to compress multiple tracks into one, preferably without losing my train of thought; a feat that requires me to use some punctuation to keep the thoughts at least somewhat separate and yet allow them to be a cohesive whole.

12Oaks's avatar

Too many time referrences.

absalom's avatar

Prepositions, adverbs, parentheses.

I make it work though.

Most of the time.

MacBean's avatar

“Really,” “actually,” “honestly,” “truly,” &c. Lots of other stuff, too, but those bother me; I just can’t seem to stop using them.

Soubresaut's avatar

Probably too many fragments and asides with varied punctuation-ing. (I don’t realize they’re not full sentences, and my hands wander as my mind does.)

Other than that, it’s usually lack of concision. Or sometimes trying to be so concise I’m not being clear enough…

I try really hard not to overuse words in my writing; I’ll go through and try and make sure that I’m not repeating any too much in one piece, because I notice the overuse all the time and it drives me crazy.

I’m pretty sure I can get to using an excess of commas, because people have told me I do, and I know that I start sentences with ‘and’ way too much—but hey! no And in this answer!

DominicX's avatar

I use a lot of semicolons, I begin a lot of sentences with “but” and “and”, and I use the word “though” all the time.

Not sure if I wish I didn’t have these habits, but sometimes it would be better to cut down a bit.

Supacase's avatar

I really just have a problem with two words: really and just

talljasperman's avatar

I use the three dots ”...” , but I consider it my style

blueiiznh's avatar

I write as if I were speaking to someone.
When I go back over it, I find a ton of syntax problems.

Pattijo's avatar

I use ” Although ” way to much

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I’m with Jerv on this for precisely the same reasons, especially the commas.

TexasDude's avatar

“For a moment…”

everephebe's avatar


wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure fer sure—I never reread anything I wrote—but I feel like I’ve been using em-dashes quite liberally and I wonder if it’s too much.

Cruiser's avatar

I will freely overuse “fruit cake” and plagerise at will “meatloaf”, “Capt’N Crunch” or “that’s what she said” and you can’t stop me! ;)

Anemone's avatar

I know I use ellipses more than I should… but I can’t help myself. They’re just so expressive.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I tend to overuse adverbs.
Ellipses, as @Anemone said.

ilana's avatar

I tend to say “I guess” a lot…

ilana's avatar

@DominicX I overuse those three words as well. Starting sentences off with “but” is almost obssessive compulsive for me.

peridot's avatar

@DominicX and @Anemone… yes :)

I also notice that in trying to convey suggestion or openmindedness, I overuse words like “maybe”. That probably scans as being wishy-washy, doesn’t it…

ucme's avatar

C a nt s a y iv e n o t i c e D A n y t h i n G uN u s u a l Although somehow I get the sense that not everything is as it should be. I could be wrong though, just a hunch.

augustlan's avatar

“That said,”, ellipses, and italics for emphasis.

ratboy's avatar

Correct grammar and punctuation; I come off as a pretentious old fart.

MacBean's avatar

@augustlan I read this answer and then clicked to go to the next question on my “Activity for You” list and, lo and behold, there was another answer from you… which included “That said…” ♥

mattbrowne's avatar

Actually actually.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

People who overuse the words “very” or “really”: someone once told me that the word “very” is an old way of saying “damn.” I don’t know how true that is, but it’s an interesting way to think about your writing! Replace every instance of “very” or “really” with the word “damn,” and you might rethink your word choice.

As for me, I tend to overuse the word “however” as well as certain types of punctuation: parentheses, em dashes, semicolons… I just like writing long sentences, I guess.

Kardamom's avatar

Using sentences that are technically correct, that appear too long. I have a problem figuring out how to write certain passages, to make them accurate, yet still have them make sense.

@ilana I want to start sentences with But too! I see it written that way in novels all the time, and it makes sense sometimes, but microsoft word always scolds me with its sqiggly lines.

Can somebody explain to me if it is ever correct to start a sentence with But? This would be one of those instances, in which doing that, would actually break up my long (but technically correct) sentences. Is it always wrong, or only just sometimes wrong?

I use hopefully way too much.

I make up descriptive words, that I can’t find in any dictionary, but they seem to fit the grammar rules. An example: cinnamony. Can’t find it in the dictionary and cinnamon-like is not right. It’s not “like” cinnamon, it is cinnamon and it’s extremely cinnamony. Just like the word lemony, which is in the dictionary.

6rant6's avatar

@Kardamom Microsoft Word is an old woman with stories of her childhood in a country twice renamed. But whatever.

VS's avatar

I tend to use… a lot! It really just signifies a pause, but timely being everything, even in the written word, a pause for effect can change the entire meaning of what you want to say.

augustlan's avatar

@Kardamom When I was in school, back in the stone ages, we were taught to never begin a sentence with ‘and’, ‘or’, or ‘but’ (conjunctions?). It still looks wrong, to me, when I see it in books. That’s not to say I haven’t done it, but I always feel bad about it. :p

6rant6's avatar

And so when Strunk and White began “Elements of Style with “And” you didn’t approve?

augustlan's avatar

@6rant6 Psh. Who am I to question them? I said it’s what I was taught, not that it’s necessarily right. But, old habits die hard. See what I did there? ;)

ilana's avatar

Sometimes you just have to use “but” or “and” at the start of your sentences otherwise they would be too long and an overuse of commas would result.
It’s much easier to read a paragraph that is broken up with full stops than long drawn out sentences full of commas, which I used to do a lot when I was younger.
I also was taught in school not to use conjunctions at the beginning like @augustlan, but it just seems like such a strict rule. I guess that’s how writing is supposed to be though…

DominicX's avatar


My 11th grade English teacher is the reason I use so many “buts” and “ands” at the beginning of sentences and the reason I use so many semicolons. He would actually require us to do those things at least a couple times in our essays. He told us about many misconceptions English teachers might have taught us over the years (never end with a preposition, never begin with “because”, never begin with “but” or “and”, etc.) Obviously you don’t want to overuse these things, but they’re all technically acceptable.

augustlan's avatar

It’s a shame we are taught so many incorrect things that stick with us. :/

6rant6's avatar

@augustlan You’re breaking out, man. Breaking out.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I use too many exclamation points, although I hope no one else notices since I go back and take MOST of them out. I also use ellipses too much…....! I also talk too much! But everything I have to say is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT see…

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