My problem with “was”

The word “was” is an easy fit when writing in the past tense. Along with “had” it is easy to use the word so hard and often that it becomes a distraction.

While “was” is a good word and sometimes the right word, there are many times (such as in the example above) when a rewrite will produce a better passage. These edits – to remove “was” – can be hard. You have used the correct word. Why does it need to change?

Once a reader notices how often the writer uses “was” every further example is going to be a distraction.

Furthermore, the effort to find another way to say the same thing can give your writing more variety, a stronger voice, and more flow. That said, I find these edits hard.

I have added “was” reduction to my editing process. This step can be a lot of time-consuming work. The end product is almost always better and more enjoyable to read. At least I think so.

The way I approach this edit is to use “Find” (Ctrl+F) type “was” (or whatever word I am reducing) and then hit “Find All”. That highlights all examples of the word. I then scroll through looking for clusters as in the example above. The more I can see on the page, the more urgently I need to re-word.

Do you have any over used words that you try and cull in the editing process? Tell me about yours in the comments.

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