Friday, February 04, 2011

Here a Crutch. There a Crutch. Everywhere a Crutch, Crutch...

Hi Folks!
I hope you are keeping warm and aren't buried under a snow drift (like me) ;o)

So. I completed my NaNo novel '10! (no applause, it's really such a mess still)

But. I realized something while revising... I repeat words. A lot. So-called crutch words can bog down your story. I know it does mine... So. Let's break out that magnifying glass and see if we can find out why we use these words and how we can change it...

Let's explore this conundrum together through bullet points, shall we?

Why do I use those pesky crutch words?

  • You're comfortable with them, in a pinch they always give you a warm hug and make you hot cocoa to sip on.
  • You can't think of anything else to use and you're about to fist pound the next thing you see out of your peripheral vision if you have to transform another sentence into the same thing, then back again, then back to what it was in the first draft... then...[insert scream or barbaric yawp]
  • Sometimes your crutch words may actually work in the sentence. Wha? Yes. Sometimes your crutch words will work in a sentence. I'm saying it twice 'cause that's important to note.
  • You tell yourself. "It's only a first draft. I'll get rid of all three hundred in the revision." Uh. No.
  • It's okay my character loves to say "uh, and like and um," that's what she does, it's her personality. Okay. Don't cheat. Make sure if you use your crutch it's only a few times and spread it throughout your story.
What can I do if a crutch word suddenly crosses my path for the twentieth (or fiftieth, let's be honest) time?
  • Don't panic. All words can be changed to be less crutchy. Just use them less.
  • Read the sentence again or have someone else read it. Can they spot your crutch word? If the answer is yes, then change.
  • Think outside the box. Transform that sentence using that brain and voice of yours!
  • Find new crutch words by using that handy dandy thesaurus thing.
  • Use it anyway. Rules are made to be broken ;o)

Okay... so you may be wondering, or not. What are mine? *poke, prod* I'll go first...

Like is a huge one for me (please refer to the blatant and embarrassing display of my crutch words above) also, lookedknowget, head, face, know and apparently eyes. Who knew?

A cool way to figure out yours is to use Wordle
I'm sure many of you know of this awesome site, but for those that don't... it's pretty cool. You take a bunch or words (or your blog url) and paste it in a box and poof, it spews out this cool looking shape thing that has all your lovely crutches to display for the masses.

Try it, then come back and tell me your crutch words ;o) Any other ideas on how to stop using those pesky overused words?

Okay, gold stars (virtual only, sorry) go to the one that tells me how many times I said crutch in this post!

Ha ha, crutch is my crutch word for this post.

Oh, it's National GO RED For Women day today, so be sure to wear your red and support awareness for women's (& men's) #1 Killer - Heart Disease.

Have a wonderful weekend!

<3 Er

erica m. chapman is a YA writer by night, workin' for the cause by day. Fan of football, especially Lions and Michigan. She loves alternative music, animals, reading, golf and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan, AKA the frozen tundra, where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in her Detroit Lions Snuggie. You can also find her at Crutch. Crutch. ha ha, do you ever read these bios? 


  1. I don't think we can help but have crutch words. It's part of writing the first draft. I'm pretty some of mine are and, look, just. The usual culprits.

  2. Great post Erica! I never thought of using wordle for something actually useful like identifying my crutch words!

    Apparently I use the word eyes too much...

  3. I get 19 if you count the title and derivatives ("crutchy");)

    When I last wordled my NaNo novel, I expected to see "grinned" as one of my crutch words... turns out there was a lot more looking and asking than there was grinning. And the same amount of tea, which is kind of like my real life. :)

  4. Laura, So true! Oh, I have those too.
    Shelley, Ah, eyes, me too! Thanks.
    Su, LOL Nice Job!! It's funny what we think would show up that don't!

  5. Great post Erica, am loving the new blog guys!

    Um, I think I have a few crutch words (um...many???). LOL. But will be hunting them down during my revisions. I hadn't thought to use Wordle for that, great tip!


  6. I did that Wordle thing - Oy! Just saying. I love that one of your words is Fallon (aww my baby). Great post!:D

  7. The problem with repeating words is that sometimes they're crutches and sometimes they're part of the character. Sometimes they've detract from the story and sometimes they add to it. It's just a matter of figuring out which it is.

    - Aaron

  8. Thanks, Rachael! LOL Ah, revisions are good for that ;o)

    Brenda, Aw, I LOVE the name ;o)

    Aaron, So true! A good thing to keep in mind ;o)

  9. Great post Erica! I use crutch-words too, and crutch-phrases! How many times can a guy turn away before he gets whiplash, ayyy!!