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.