Friday, May 04, 2007

Three Tips to Avoid Repetition in Your Writing

It's true that we all have different styles of writing and editing. I have never been able to sit down and write something start to finish. Whether that's good or not, I do not know, but it's what works for me. I write the first paragraph, stop, reread, edit, then go back to writing.

Last week I spent many hours working on my short story for the 76th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition, and as I edited, I was reminded of the importance of avoiding repetition in writing. Of course, there are always cases where it is used in order to help your writing flow and make sense, or to emphasize a point. In those cases it's important to come up with new and unique ways of saying what you want to say. That's part of the creative element of writing.

Avoiding repetition is important primarily for the fluidity of your piece. When you continually repeat, your writing becomes choppy and hard to follow. But most importantly, nobody is going to want to read what you've written. Who really has time to read the same thing over and over? And who really wants to? If you can get creative with your words and phrases, your article will be more interesting for your reader.

Three tips to avoid repetition:

(1) Did you ever read a story or article where the main character's name is used way too much? It breaks down the readability of your piece. When you are using a person's name, try replacing it with pronouns whenever possible. Obviously, you must introduce the character you are talking about, and there are still times it is necessary to use the actual name, but when appropriate use him, her, or he, she etc.

(2) Reread your article out loud, or listen to someone read it to you. Hearing as opposed to reading it inside your head, is helpful for catching those words and phrases that are repetitive. I can't tell you how many times I have read something I wrote to a friend and caught words that repeat.

(3) Your thesaurus is your friend. Don't be afraid or ashamed to pull it out of your bookshelf, or from your Microsoft Word program. Sometimes you may even find a more appropriate word than you were originally going to use. Plus this blessed little book also has the added bonus of widening your vocabulary.

Repetition is a part of writing. We all do it. It's something that we don't think about a whole lot because we are paying attention to proper grammar and sentence structure. But it's there in your rough drafts, and that is where it needs to end! So be on the lookout.

Until next time take care!


sylvia c. said...


I especially agree about reading your writing out loud. It helps to hear the rhythm and flow of words.

Thanks for the tips!

Take Care!


Sylvia C.

laura said...

Great article!

You have to be careful with the use of pronouns, though. Be sure that it clearly refers back to the character you intend it to.

Thanks for sharing what you learned.

Lisa Vella said...


Thanks for the feedback. Yes, you are right, it's very important that your story or article is written so that the reader doesn't get confused. I always try to be careful of that when writing!

Thanks for pointing that out!

Have a great weekend and wonderful Mother's Day!


Stewart Sternberg said...

I don't usually worry about repetition...but one thing that might be useful for people is to read out loud. Of course, i believe there is a different feel to something read and something recited, but still.

Lisa Vella said...


I completely agree with you. Reading out loud is something that helps me immensely.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Have a great day!


Julia Temlyn said...

Reading your writing aloud is one of the most helpful tools, indeed!

When I was in college I took a course in Advanced Expository Writing, and we were encouraged to use a thesaurus in order to find the most descriptive words, avoiding the typical "she walked," and going for "strolled" instead.

Great tips!

Protector one said...

Thanks for your tips!
I'm currently writing my master thesis and I keep finding myself beginning sentences with 'th'-words... A writer, I am not.