A crutch word is simply that: a word we lean on time and time again. Every writer has their own individual crutch words. The problem is when we lean on them too much they end up sticking out like a sore thumb. My personal favorites are: just, that, and and.
Two things I discovered while working on my book are I use “and” a lot and have been known to start many sentences with it. The other thing I found out was I had a new crutch word.
Originally, my book was set in the United States but I changed it to Ireland. It meant that I had to change “Mom” to “Mum”. So I used Microsoft Word’s handy little tool to scour through the manuscript and change Mom to Mum. The only problem was that it did not stop there. It also changed “momentarily” to “mumentarily” and “in a moment” to “in a mument”. Very efficient, indeed, for I realized that I had used those two words quite a lot, thus identifying new crutch words for me to keep an eye out for.
Here are some common crutch words writers share:
Here are some tips on avoiding crutch words and finding them:
- Be aware of what your own personal crutch words are. Read over a few pages of a recent work-in-progress and look for repetitive words.
- Ask someone to read your work with the specific task of looking for crutch words you may have missed. Recently, I read a work from someone in my group and she had a crutch word that she used a lot to the point that it distracted from her fabulous work.
- On your hard copy, highlight your crutch words in yellow, so you can physically see them.
- Write your crutch words down and pick up a Thesaurus, write a list of alternatives — sometimes you can just drop the word.
- It is worth repeating, read your work aloud — you pick up errors including your crutch words.
- New crutch words can pop up with each new piece you write. Read through each new piece with the single objective of identifying any new crutch words.
You cannot be vigilant of your own idiosyncrasies if you are not aware of them.