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Writers Tip #65: Thing? Really?

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Don’t ever use ‘thing’, ‘something’, or any iteration of that word. That includes words like ‘stuff’, ‘you know’. You’re a writer. You can be more descriptive. Take a moment to use your skills and tell the reader what that ‘thing’ is.

What set me off? Too many titles that sound like this one:

Five Things that Tell You Who Your Characters Are

Sure, as an author, you have license, but you also have an obligation.

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Questions you want answered? Email me and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

More on words:

Fear of Saying Dumb Things Scares Me to Death

Writer’s Tip #46: Beware of Word Selection

Writers Tip #42: Avoid Rhyming Fiction; Stick With Prose Diction


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Follow me.

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24 thoughts on “Writers Tip #65: Thing? Really?

  1. It drives me crazy when I’m revising and editing, rereading the draft and seeing “thing” and “something” repeatedly. There’s a lot of work to do to add description.

    • You and me both. I do a search for ‘thing’ as well as words like ‘was’. ‘Eyes’ too because I’m prone to having eyes go all over the place rather than a gaze.

  2. It’s so easy to just throw in the word ‘thing’ or ‘things’. But I ask myself,”What kind of things? What are they called?” Whatever the answer is, that’s what should be in the phrase you’re writing.

    • I do the same, Glynis. And every time, it helps immensely to define what ‘thing’ is. I’ve stopped even putting it in drafts (though it constantly slips in unnoticed) because it ruins the flow of the story.

  3. Pingback: Writers Tip #74: Exposition Tips From Chuck | WordDreams...

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