While reading a 'how to' on writing Chapter One of a novel, I came across something I had not heard of: invisible words. Now, maybe somewhere/sometime I may have learned about these, but I don't remember. I put on my research hat and off I went, surfing the internet.
For writers and poets we need to be very much aware of these words. These are words that are so overused that their meanings are minimal anymore. If we want our work to 'sizzle' and catch the eyes of agents and publishers, we need to be on the look-out for invisible/common/boring words in our work.
Alas, but I am guilty of using such words. When I get that creative urge, I let the words flow onto the paper. Later, I edit, but I never thought to look for boring words. It's surprising how many of these words show up in my writing. The book I mentioned in paragraph one called 'beautiful' an invisible word. 'Beautiful' is one of my favorite words! I was shocked. Then I remembered Saturday Night Live with the church lady. Now, I have actually known women like this. As a matter of fact, I live in a state where 'special' really is a 'special' word. 'Isn't that special?' 'Aren't you just special to make that special dessert for our special dinner held in our special hall?' Somedays I think 'if I hear one more special from anyone today, I'll...I'll...I'll write my congressman to ban that word.' Well, maybe agents and publishers think the same about invisible words that are no longer, well, 'special.'
I read once that if you are having trouble cutting down the number of words in your writing, go back through and try to cut one word per sentence out. I thought 'each word is so special though, how could I ever do that?' Surprisingly, there were many words that could be cut out from overuse or because they made the sentence/paragraph tedious to read.
To make your work stand out, try to avoid common words too. Wikipedia lists the top 200 most common words in order. Now, granted, there are times when you can't cut these words and there is no other word to take its place, but I bet there are many places in your work that you can change, making your work sizzle.
Below is a short list of boring/invisible words and the 10 most common words. Let's take a look at what I wrote before looking at the list. I have used the word 'word' at least 20 times. If I took the time to polish up what I wrote, that would be a good 'word' to take out or change.
Invisible words: amazing, angry, beautiful, but, cool, delicious, eager, fast, hurt, kill, love, neat, old, really, said, tell, think, very, was.
The top 10 common words: the/be/to/of/and/a/in/that/have/I
I want to thank my fantastic critic partner, Florence, who loves to point out the words I overuse. Thank you very much, dear friend. Unfortunately, I love words. All words. Any words. In any language. I find them mysterious and beautiful, yes, beautiful. Thanks to Florence's guidance, I now have a glossary of common and boring words.