Not all words are created equal, and as a writer, you can devote many hours to finding the
best perfect one.
While playing with word choice and re-writing sentences until you get them just right can help capture what you’re trying to invoke, a weak word can do the opposite.
But how do you know which exact words will pull the strength from your sentences? That’s a skill you’ll learn to develop as you grow as a writer. In the meantime, the following checklist is a good place to start.
Use your Find/Search function to scour your MS for the following words.
- If your sentence makes sense without the weak word – Delete it
- If the weak word adds clarity – Keep it
- If deleting the weak word makes the sentence better but confusing – Delete the word and rewrite the sentence
The Weak Word Checklist
Feel free to add or remove any words to suit your style and voice. I recently worked through this checklist myself and here are examples from book one of my YA supernatural series.
Deleting A Weak Word For A Stronger Sentence
– Eve spoke, cutting Sarah off before she could even think about opening her mouth.
– Eve spoke, cutting Sarah off before she could open her mouth.
– …silently scolding himself for being so demanding
– …silently scolding himself for being demanding
– The glow sunk into his skin and he felt it burn in his chest, flooding his veins and awakening his muscles.
– The glow sunk into his skin and burned in his chest, flooding his veins and awakening his muscles.
– The buildings around him were dark and empty, but he didn’t feel alone. There were too many ghosts to keep him company.
– The buildings around him were dark and empty, but he wasn’t alone. There were too many ghosts to keep him company.
Deleting A Weak Word/s And Rewriting The Sentence
– Straight away, the lingering pain in his shoulder was crushed by familiar numbness, making Josh wonder if shutting the door had put a barrier between himself and the book.
– Straight away, the lingering pain in his shoulder was crushed by familiar numbness. Did shutting the door put a barrier between himself and the book?
– Sarah’s ballet flat kicked something in the dark. Her first thought was a box, but as soon as she turned on the light, she saw Josh collapsed on the floor, his head right near the tip of her black shoe.
– Sarah’s ballet flat kicked something in the dark. A box? As soon as she turned on the light, she found Josh collapsed on the floor, his head near the tip of her black shoe.
As you can see, removing the weak words improved the sentences. In some cases, it made them more active, which is the checklist I’ll be covering in the next blog post.
I hope you’ve been enjoying the checklist series. The first blog, The Delete Checklist, can be found here. Both checklists can be used alongside The Repeats when editing to help you craft a stronger story.
Until next week, happy weak word hunting!
— K.M. Allan