Thursday, September 16, 2010


Blogging about echo words at New Kids on the Writers Block. (Reposted)

Ever stood in a cave, hands cupped around your mouth, and hollered "Hellllooo"? Did you hear an echo? If you did, your echo was intentional. You called into the emptiness of the cave just to hear your voice bounce back to you.

Echoes don't occur only in caves. They can occur in writing, too.

Sometimes a writer will intentionally use repetitive words and phrases for emphasis, but I'm not talking about those stylistic choices. I'm talking about those unintentional repetitions that annoy the reader. Echo words and phrase.

It's easy for verbs to become echo words in our writing. Take a look at the following examples.

He gave her a sour look. She looked frazzled.. Sarah watched him looking through the items in the box.

He whispered. The trees were whispering in the wind.

He paced the room. He paced like a cage tiger. She walked so fast it was hard to keep pace with her.

Regret washed over him. Overwhelming sadness washed over her.

Rick turned to leave. Abby turned to face her. She turned away. Valerie turned to hide her face...yada, yada, yada).

Of course, not all echo words are verbs. Adjectives rank among them too. Recently, I was reading a yet to be released book for a review. The book was good, but the author overused the word visceral. Now, visceral is an unusual word and isn't common in every day language. Using it once would have been an attention a good way. It's a powerful, descriptive word. Seeing the word repeated a couple of times in nearly every chapter annoyed the heck out of me. I began wondering if the author understood the meaning of the word, or if she was simply so enamored with her own vocabulary and showing off. It's not a good thing to irk your audience.

We all have echo words that we should be cognizant of in our writing. A couple of divining tools that I use to point out those little hiccups are the "Find" function in Word and Wordle.  The "Find" function is self-explanatory if you are familiar with Word. It works best if you're aware of the echo words that fly from your fingertips onto the page. Wordle is a website that creates word clouds. You copy/paste your WIP into its designated box and it will show you which words are repeated the most by the size of the word. This has been an amazing tool for me to find the echo words that slipped past my brain in revisions. Wordle is a free website. Check it out at

Do you find that your WIP is infected with echo words? What are they? And, what methods do you use to extract them?

~ Kristal Lee

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Renee said...

Kristal, I think I drive my cps nuts. I tend to over use words. Great post!
September 16, 2010 6:27 PM

KC Burn said...

I definitely have a few repeaters (I call them my crutch words) and I've used wordle before - I like it, although I use the find function more than wordle - but I'm trying to work on a macro for word so I can customize the output for me. Great post!

Rebecca Lynn said...

I love Wordle. It helped me to see how much I overuse "back" and "toward". Wow, I have to keep an eye on myself with those two. :-)
September 16, 2010 8:44 PM

Lynn said...

Crap. I like crap. And all my characters do too, apparently....

My beta reader found it in one ms now I'm finding it in another.
September 17, 2010 4:27 AM

Kristal Lee said...

Lynn-- I say crap alot, but it hasn't found its way into my MS. I do have a "but" problem though. hahaha.
September 18, 2010 12:46 PM

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