One of the best ways to keep your writing fresh and engaging is to avoid using the same words too close together. Repetition can make your work seem amateurish or even goofy. Aim to use synonyms and unique descriptions instead, to eliminate unnecessary repetition. This analysis helps you spot areas in your manuscript where you repeat the same words within a few paragraphs.
Take a look at these repetition pitfalls:
He slapped the light on and saw a light-colored duffel bag at the top of the stairs.
Here light is used to indicate both an object (the light) and a shade (a light-colored bag). But to the reader, it still feels like repetition: boring, lazy, and worse—the mark of an amateur.
The good news? It’s an easy fix:
He slapped the light on. A yellow duffel bag lay at the top of the stairs.
Just use synonyms or unique descriptions to eliminate repetition.
Here’s an example of a repetitive filler word:
He just couldn’t believe his boss had done it again. But he couldn’t just quit. Could he? Then he imagined what it would be like to leave a letter of resignation on his desk and walk out. And just like that, he made up his mind.
Ah, those tricky little filler words. Every writer has one—words like just, really, seems, even, or very. (I’m guilty of even myself; that little bugger loves to creep into my writing). In almost all cases, these words can easily be eliminated. Conduct a search and destroy and chances are you’ll find you rarely need them.
He couldn’t believe his boss had done it again. But he couldn’t quit. Could he? He thought for a moment, imagining what it would be like to leave a letter of resignation on his desk and walk out. And just like that, he made up his mind.
Related areas to look for in your manuscript
If AutoCrit shows you that you tend to rely on repeated words, make sure you look at your whole manuscript for repetition using the Word Frequency Analysis. Unusual and uncommon words may not necessarily appear close together, so they may fall through the cracks of the Repetition Analysis. Five occurrences of an uncommon word might feel like one hundred to the reader.
The exception to the rule
Repetition in dialogue can be useful in small doses and allow you to flesh out details of your characters. This is a balancing act; it's very easy to over do it and annoy your reader.
The bottom line
Sure, sometimes repetition works. But most of the time, it’s better to eliminate or change repeated words and phrases. It’s an easy fix with big impact.