One of those interesting statistics

While editing, I used a word that dinged on my consciousness as having been in the book too often. The word? Looked.

Scrivener has a word frequency counter that will tell you exactly how many times you’ve used a word—one of the things I have been missing and yearning for since the days when I wrote with WordStar.

I used looked 141 times. 141 times.

Most of those times are post-revision. The majority of the rest of the words in the heavy-use section were articles, prepositions, or proper nouns for main characters—which is as it should be.

141 times on a single verb, though. That’s heavy. The next most battered verb was turned, with 89 appearances. That’s not great, either. After that, verbs improve, showing up a rational number of times in a book with 60,000+ words.

Adjectives were mostly very lean, with two exceptions. Just (92), one of my regular bugbears, will also suffer a hunt-and-destroy, as will very (40).

It’s lovely to have the power in my hands to find these annoyances, identify how bad the problem is—and then hunt the offending words down and kill them.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

9 comments… add one
  • Angelique Mar 22, 2007 @ 10:27

    What a great tool to have!

  • Alastair Bridgewater Mar 20, 2007 @ 8:58

    As an emacs user, I got curious, and came up with the following sequence, which could probably do with some tuning (and maybe binding to a simpler key sequence):

    C-x h ;; to mark the entire buffer
    M-| ;; shell command on region
    tr ‘ ‘ ‘n’ | sort | uniq -c | sort -r

    The tr converts spaces to newlines, the sort groups identical lines together, the uniq -c counts runs of identical lines, and the sort -r puts the totals in descending order.

    I’ll admit to having found most of that line of shell commands in something called “The Linux Cookbook”.

    Now I just have to not forget this trick.

  • nienke Mar 20, 2007 @ 7:25

    Yeah, well, Liquid Binder does that too! (someone’s gotta stand up for us PCers!!)

  • MattScudder Mar 19, 2007 @ 18:54

    i use looked way too much as well, do you know of any good alternatives?

    Some that can work, depending on the context: Gazed, focused, studied, eyed, noticed, examined, gaped, stared, ogled, glared, glanced.

    And that’s off the top of my head. (I have a problem with “looked” as well.)

  • shay Mar 19, 2007 @ 16:33

    i use looked way too much as well, do you know of any good alternatives?

  • pugh7755 Mar 19, 2007 @ 15:29

    I meant to say that I wish WriteItNow had these features.

  • pugh7755 Mar 19, 2007 @ 15:27

    Thanks for the link TJ. I downloaded and checked them out. I like them. I only wish I could use it with WriteItNow without having to export first.

  • LadyQ Mar 19, 2007 @ 14:58

    I love to pepper my prose with “just”, “nearly”, “almost” and “slightly”. I’m sure my characters also do a lot of “looking”, often “slightly” off to one side. They also tend to spend a lot of time in “cold” places with lots of “ice” and “snow” where things tend to happen “suddenly”.

    TJ, thanks for that link!

  • TJ Mar 19, 2007 @ 13:41

    LOL. That’s always fun. I catch myself using some words entirely too much in posts and comments, too.

    There is a site created by a guy that is on a forum I belong to that created some Macros in Word to help identify high frequency words, adverbs, and passive words.

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