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Writing Tip #5: Trim the Fat

Well, it’s time to trim the manuscript. 


I’m so long-winded, it’s horrible. Every time I do another draft, my manuscript gains a few thousand words. Yikes!

But…some words are easy to cut. And painless. They’re the same words that bog down sentences and paragraphs. The best part is once they’re gone, I don’t miss them a bit. 

One of the last things I do with a manuscript is use the “Control F” function. Find and Replace, the writer’s best friend. Think of it like Search and Destroy. Once I feel my manuscript is “done”, I hunt for useless words that slipped in. Then I zap them and sit back, amazed at how quickly my word count drops. 

It’s awesome.

If you’ve been writing for awhile, you probably have your own list of excess words. I’ve gathered some over the years, but since I needed to go through this process this week, I put all my lists together in one place. I figured I’d post it here for you to peruse (and for me to use in future manuscripts).



  1. There are times when you need a “THAT” or a “JUST” to make a sentence work.

  2. Sometimes — and all you diehards don’t shoot me for saying this! — you need an adverb. Sorry, sorry, sorry! That’s just my opinion. Seriously, don’t shoot me. (See, I just used an adverb–and the word “JUST”. Ha!!!!)

  3. Depending on how your characters speak, you may need to leave some unnecessary words in to make the character sound authentic. Example: Teenagers throw tons of extra words into their speech (like, so, that). Same with southerners. Know your characters and be careful not to ruin their “Voice” when you strip your manuscript. In fact, if you cut those words from all places except where your character says them, it will strengthen their voice.


Because of those three reasons, I maybe cut half of the “useless” words, but it still adds up. THE POINT OF THE LIST BELOW IS TO GIVE YOU IDEAS OF WHERE YOU MIGHT  HAVE EXCESS. It’s tedious skimming your manuscript for every word, reading every sentence to see if the word is needed, but it’s worth the effort.  I just cut 2,500 words this week. 


Okay. Ready?

Here’s my list:

  1. about   

  2. actually

  3. almost 

  4. although             

  5. appears               

  6. approximately  

  7. back      

  8. basically              

  9. close to               

  10. enough               

  11. even     

  12. eventually          

  13. exactly 

  14. feel, felt, feeling             

  15. finally   

  16. for a moment   

  17. get        

  18. go/going          

  19. had       

  20. hear/heard        

  21. in spite of           

  22. just       

  23. kind of 

  24. know    

  25. like        

  26. look/looked 

  27. nearly  

  28. notice  

  29. now      

  30. one       

  31. perhaps              

  32. practically           

  33. quite    

  34. rather  

  35. realize  

  36. really    

  37. saw, see, seen 

  38. seems/seemed  

  39. simply  

  40. smile/smiled

  41. so          

  42. some    

  43. somehow           

  44. somewhat         

  45. sort of  

  46. still        

  47. suddenly            

  48. then     

  49. thought               

  50. time      

  51. truly      

  52. try/tried to         

  53. turned 

  54. utterly 

  55. very      

  56. was/were          

  57. wonder               

  58. yet        

  59. (If you have words to add, comment below, and I’ll plug them in. )


There’s a great way to find your specific overused words. Paste your entire manuscript into Wordle.netI explain how this works in the post here.

After three days of this tedious SEARCH and DESTROY method, I cut 2,400 words from my manuscript. Now it feels tight and concise. It reads faster and stronger, too, so it’s worth it! 

Good luck with your manuscripts!

What words do you overuse? Any I forgot? Comment here.

Side note: Readers have no idea what authors go through for them. 🙂

58 Words to Trim

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