Public Service Announcement for Authors

This is a message in all authors’ interest with the objective of raising awareness, changing author habits, and identifying editorial behavior towards overused words in writing.

Warning: This post contains images writers may find disturbing.

I recently read a book by a debut author. The cover was beautiful, the interior design was interesting, and the premise was intriguing.


Actual book page redacted for effect.

Well, actually, the writing just really bugged me.

And by that, I mean, in roughly 250 pages, the author included the word ‘just’ 229 times. Yes, I counted.






It wasn’t the repetition alone, maybe there’s a “just’ification for using a ‘just’ a page–it was the groupings that made them so obvious. It wasn’t just the ‘just’s. Well, really, like, actually, look, and kiss–yes, kiss! were also, in my opinion, unnecessarily repeated.

I understand it was a debut novel, but it was printed through a publishing house and there were two pages of acknowledgments including a thank you to a professional editor.



Now, sometimes, those words are really the only word that will do.
Sometimes, you just need to say just. Or well, or like, or look…

And on occasion, the reiteration of a word is necessary for rhythm or emphasis.

I do NOT mean to pick on this book. I do NOT mean to pick on this author.
Do I wish I had been part of their critique group?
Do I think my critique makes a difference now that it’s in print?

It’s not about this book. It’s not about this author.

It’s about me.
And you.
And writing.
Recognizing these bad habits and filler words in other books makes me self-conscious about my work. Good. I need reminders!
All too often, when you hit upon the right word, it’s the PERFECT WORD! It fits in so many sentences! And you miss that you’ve already used it.

A lot.

It’s easy to do.
We’ve all done it.
It’s also easy to fix.
We can all do it.

My goal for this PSAA is twofold:
1. To warn other authors to please, please, please Ctrl F specific words.
Filler words, yes, but also favored words.
and especially,
2. To remind myself.

This concludes the Public Service Announcement for Authors.

About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
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4 Responses to PSAA

  1. It’s always good to JUST hear this again, even if I am super conscious of doing it.

  2. Jack says:

    Since it is a word I tend to overuse as well, I JUST filtered my 70K word partial first draft to see how many times it occurred so far. It showed up JUST 108 times, which averages out to six times a chapter. Definitely something to that needs to be cleaned up. JUST saying.

  3. Dennis Strack says:

    Great post, Mary. Right now I’m probably guilty of doing the same thing. Hopefully I’ll learn from it.

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