A weasel is a small carnivorous mammal with short legs and elongated body. We associate them with sneaky tendencies. The term can also describe a treacherous or deceptive person. Writers use the phrase “weasel words” to denote unnecessary phrases or extra words that sneak into a manuscript and ruin our well-crafted sentences. Every writer has “pet” weasels in their rough drafts. Kicking out the weasels is an important aspect of writing and editing your manuscript.
I recently edited and published my novel, Grow Old With Me. Eliminating weasel words made my sentences concise. Writers occasionally need to add words to reach a publisher’s desired word count. In my manuscript, I needed to cut words. I went on a search for weasels and found 1000 hiding in my manuscript.
There are different versions of Word and numerous types of writing software, but most feature a search option that allows you to look for a specific word or phrase. Locate this important tool in your word processing software version. That box contains other useful tools to help polish your work.
- Use your word search tool to check for weasel words in your manuscript or story. You’ll be surprised how many you locate. These are some common words that are seldom needed:
a bit, a little, absolutely, actually, basically, completely, extremely, just, kind of, mostly, naturally, often, ordinarily, particularly, perfectly, probably, quite, rather, really, so, some, somehow, somewhat, too, totally, truly, usually, very.
This is not an exhaustive list despite its length. You can find long lists of weasel words on writing blogs and websites. Click here to see another good source.
Editing out weasel words is time consuming, but it tightens the writing and brings you closer to a manuscript ready for publication. If you learn to avoid commonly overused words, you won’t need to cut them. Learn to nix weasel words before they creep into your novel.
- Sometimes these words are appropriate. If the sentence works without the extra word, decide if it helps or detracts.
Example: The sentence makes very good sense without the extra words.
Omitting the words ‘very’ and ‘good’ improve the sentence.
Find the weasel word in the following sentences.
- His head hit the really hard concrete floor.
- She suddenly burst into song.
- A very heavy fog crept into the harbor.
I wrote simple sentences with obvious weasel words, but weasels are sneaky creatures. Be observant as you write, and then edit, edit, and edit again until your manuscript sings with your unique writing voice.
Leave comments about the weasels you ousted from your text.