• Jan Fischer Wade
  • List of Weak Words to Seach for While Editing! Print and Save This!
List of Weak Words to Seach for While Editing! Print and Save This!
Written by
Jan Fischer Wade
September 2011
Written by
Jan Fischer Wade
September 2011

Today I am not blogging about book marketing! Shocking, I know!!!  Instead, I am posting about writing mechanics.  So, here we go!


Show, don't tell is a direction often given to writers to write in a such a way that allows readers to "experience the story through a character's action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the narrator's exposition, summarization, and description."  Source:  Wikipedia


While you are writing and editing your work, search for the following words and see if you can improve your sentences by eliminating many of the following words.  Print this off and keep it handy!  (If you haven't started editing yet and it's your first time, trust me, you'll thank me later!)


Words to Watch Out For:

Felt / Feel

Heard / Hear

Saw / See

Knew / know / had known









Use Active Voice, Not Passive:  Style of writing that helps to show, not tell!

Words to Check:  (remember in the 'find' feature to check the 'find exact match' box for words that are only two or three letters long)

To be








Have Been




Also: Past Participles (verb form often ending in -ed)


Other Weak Words:  I found myself starting off a lot of dialogue with "So, ..." and "Well, ..." and "Oh, ..."  which are really not needed.







As if



Jill Elizabeth Nelson presented some great before and after examples in her article "On With the Show; Off With the Tell":

Instead of writing, He thought a good bath wouldn’t hurt the dog, write, Whew! A good bath would do this dog a world of good.

Instead of, She feels a sinking sensation in her middle, write, Her stomach drops to her toes.

Instead of, He knew that if she did that, she’d fail, write, If she did that, she’d fail.

Instead of, She wondered how she would get through the next day, write, How could she possibly survive the next day?

Instead of, I wished I hadn’t said that, write, If only I hadn’t said that.

View her article HERE - it is very helpful! 

More in depth articles on Show, Don't Tell:






Does anyone else have other advice or words to watch out for??


I have been doing line edits this week, so this has been on my brain!  Best of luck to everyone!  Cheers! Jan

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  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hi Chloe! Thanks for your comment - so true!!! Best wishes!  Jan

  • Chloe Jeffreys

    I have taken this post to heart and cleaned up my writing. Weak words come from my own weak thoughts and fears. When I'm afraid I'm inclined to use words like "I think" or "I feel" or "I believe" or hedge my bets by using passive verbs. Now I use those words in my first draft, but go back and take them out. If I can't definitively say what I think, feel or believe then it doesn't deserve to be said at all.

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Thanks Candy!  Tomorrow is another list of blah adjectives and adverbs to save - it was tremendously helpful when I was line editing!  Best of luck to you!!  Cheers!  *clink* *sluurrrrppp*

  • Candy Fite

    Great post, Jan! I'm saving your "lists" on my computer!

  • Yejide Kilanko

    Thanks for the adding. Congrats on your book as well and thank you for all the useful info you post :)


  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Tuesday I'll be posting a list of 'blah' words to look for (adverbs and adjectives) and share some 'sparkly' words to use instead (Thanks to Autumn!!!)! It should be another post to print off and keep for use while you are writing or editing!  Cheers!

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hey Autumn! It will be posting on Tuesday morning, I truly hope it is helpful!

  • Autumn

    I can't wait to see what you come up with Jan!  And it will be interesting to hear what other peeps decide to add! :)

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    OOOHH!!  Love the idea Autumn!!  I will get on that and see what I can dig up!!!!  I'll do a blog post and see what others can contribute as well!! I'll try to post it Tuesday (if I can find enough 'sparkly' words to share)!!  THANKS!!

  • Autumn

    I was reminded of this thread last night while listening to a teleseminar on how to pitch a book ~ near the end of the discussion one of the speakers suggested watching movie trailers and checking out blurbs for new books and then compiling a list of great "pitch words" - one that came up was sparkly. (I assure you I didn't come up with that one. lol!)  Anyway, I thought it would make a nice list to go with this one ~ words to use/incorporate along with ones to watch out for!  Any ideas for that list?

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    You are most welcome Colleen!

  • Colleen Green

    good advice! Thanks!

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hey Victoria - thanks for commenting!  My biggies are 'that' , 'seemed' and 'was'. It seemed like that was all I was looking for during my line edits!  haha

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hey Maggi - You are most welcome!

  • Victoria Landis

    Good list.  Thanks.  I'm guilty of overusing 'just' and 'so'.  I think the comment by Chloe Jeffreys was an excellent point, too.  Women do tend to 'soften' things.  It took me years to learn to stop apologizing for things I had nothing to do with.

  • Maggi Summerhill

    Thanks Jan.

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Thanks for visiting Kay Dee! Best of luck to you!!!

  • Kay Dee Royal

    Hey - thanks Jan. I like to collect these little gems (your article & those like it) - anything to help my editing process.

    I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and expertise.


  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hi Monica!  Thank you so much for commenting and pointing us to Chris Roerden's book!!!  Have a great weekend!  Jan

  • Monica Epstein

    Thanks for the post, Jan. Those words are on my list of things to look for during my next edit.

    I'd like to mention a book that I have found to be extremely useful. In addition to discussing overused and unnecessary  words, it covers many other topics to improve your final manuscript. It is called Don't Sabotage Your Submission, and it's written by Chris Roerden.

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hi Chloe!  Good point!!!

  • Chloe Jeffreys

    This was very helpful. Like others have said, many of these words are conversational and I have a hard time not using them in blog writing. I also wonder if women are more prone to use these weak words since they act like a social lubricant by toning down opinion and stance.

  • Jan Fischer Wade

    Hi Dera - so true!!  Thanks for stopping by!  Jan

  • Dera R Williams Writing

    Thanks. Subconsciously we as writers know this, but somehow these words creep in.

  • Autumn

    Words Better Off Dead Than Said ~ this cracked me up, I love it!  Do you have this list posted on your blog, Rebecca?