No, not the kind where you circle words mixed in with a jumble of letters. I mean actually searching your manuscript for problem words and phrases.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a list of words I scour my work for using Word’s find function. A lot of them are pretty common sentence fillers: just, only, every, probably, since, and that are the worst offenders, but by no means the only ones. It’s also wise to scour for words like feel, think and see (or felt, thought and saw for you past-tense writers) since they tend to pull the reader out of the book. As in, “I feel hurt” puts distance between the reader and the character whereas “I’m hurt” does not. But I digress.
There are other words you want to watch out for, the ones that you have a particular fondness for and often don’t realize you use. These are more specific, the words that sound right to you but will become repetitive for readers. Imagine reading “she appeared” every time a character enters the room. If you start noticing it, wham! Out of the book. Unfortunately, you might have to wait for a beta reader to say “You use ‘of course’ a lot” before figuring it out. For example, besides “of course”, I found quite a few instances of “flush” in my book. It’s one of those words that can be used once or twice a book without incident but more than three or four and readers start to go “does this girl’s face ever stay normal?” Again, not good.
So there are many reasons to word search your MS. I suggest waiting until after major rewrites are complete before doing a word search. There’s no point in clearing out useless words if a new chapter’s just going to need it done again.
And for the record these are my words: still, there, though, although, before, after, once, at least, of course, appear, then, while, almost, even, what, start, begin, begins, good, how, just, only, every, can, well, probably, that, since, as, like, so, some, when, seem, been, could, would, should, I, we, ’re, n’t, ’s, ’d, ’ve, be, is, are, am, I’m, was, were, we’re, keep, kept, got, get, had, has, felt, feel, think, thought, try, tried, tries, may, might, grew, grow, look, found, find, knew, know, become, became, smell, stupid, sense, hear, come, came, go, goes, went, taste, see, saw, watch, believe, flush, area, smile, cry, cries, cried, tear, sob, sobbed, wonder, time, pop, face, flash, thing, almost, if, finally, barely
And this doesn’t even include my adverb search.
What about you? Any words you especially overuse? How do you deal with problem words?