How Repetition Hurts Your Writing
Are you being overly repetitive in your writing? What does this say about you as an author? How can it hurt your work overall? Read on and find out!
Am I Being Repetitive?
If you are, you have likely gotten this feedback from a member of your writing group or cartel.
However, even if you haven’t, it might be worth while to take a look at some of your recent work and figure out if you could stand to crack open a thesaurus.
For instance, a passage like this one might warrant some tweaking:
She pressed the button for the elevator and waited patiently for it. She nodded to the elderly man who stepped up beside her to wait before turning her focus back onto the doors. She couldn’t wait to get started on her first day at her new job. It seemed like she’d been waiting all her life for an opportunity like this. Now that her goal waited within her line of sight, she wanted to spring forward and grasp it.
Depending upon the story, there’s not a lot “wrong” with these lines. However, let’s try some more creative word choices:
She pressed the button for the elevator and waited patiently for it. She nodded to the elderly man who stepped up beside her before turning her focus back onto the doors. She was eager to get started on her first day at her new job. It seemed like she’d been in a holding pattern all her life, searching for an opportunity like this. Now that her goal hovered within her line of sight, she wanted to spring forward and grasp it.
What Does Repetition Like This Say About Me As An Author?
Not much, other than “you’re human.” Sometimes we are so exhausted we try to crank out as many words as we can and thinking about how artfully those words are crafted is the last thing on our minds. Other times, we can find some insight into how we think throughout our daily lives–or maybe just what kind of mood we’re in on that particular day–based on which words we tend to repeat.
For example, if you find words like “angry,” “irritated,” and “frustrated” are popping up over and over again throughout your piece, even when it isn’t really necessary, you might be dealing with something (or someone) annoying in your life. Did a family freeloader just ask you for money? Did a house guest overstay their welcome? Is your boss trying to take advantage of your kindness? There are lots of reasons why anger, sadness, anxiety, confusion or other dominant emotions could be creeping their way into your work without having any proper place there. Besides merely changing the words in your piece, you might want to consider changing the people around you, or how your interact with them, so that unpleasant emotions take up a little less space in your brain.
How Can Repetition Hurt My Work?
After all, Fifty Shades of Grey got published, so obviously it isn’t the end of the world if you’re a little (or a whole helluva lot) repetitive in your writing. My concern when I see repetitive language in books, magazine articles, or blogs is that is smacks of a lack of creativity. As though you either didn’t care, or didn’t know how, to use one of a number of synonyms for a particular word or idea.
If you don’t want to self-publish and are trying to go at it using the traditional channels (more power to you!), this could be one of those little things that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of a gatekeeper to the industry. You already have enough possible reasons for failure nipping at your heels. Don’t add ‘repetitive language’ to the pack if you can help it.
how has repetition hurt / helped you in your work?
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