Trick from the Editor’s Hat: A List of Crutch Words

You spend hours, days, even weeks editing. You're struggling to get through it — but don't give up. Writing a story is easy; shaping it into something worth reading is where the true talent of the writer lies.

Here is just one of the many tricks that I employ when editing both my own and clients' writing.


While writing, we often have a list of words that we'll fall back on when we can't think of another word to write. Sometimes, we don't even realise that we're doing it. It's not until our critique partners, beta readers, or editors point it out to us that we see the repetitive word glaring at us.

"How could I have missed that? It's as obvious as the nose on my face."

Well, it's quite easy to miss things when you don't know that they're a problem. However, the solution is surprisingly simple.

Create a spreadsheet of crutch words, adding to the list with each new manuscript. Pull out the spreadsheet every time you're getting ready to send your manuscript out the door to your beta readers. Search your manuscript for every word on that list. Rework any sentences that need to be reworked to remove the offending word, then move on to the next word on your list.

Just like in the Was Edit, each instance of a given word needs to be carefully examined. This process is not a simple find-and-replace, or a find-and-delete. In some cases, that word might be the best word for the given situation. Think about the word just. The phrase just punishment carries a different meaning to punishment. For a given context, dishing out punishment might not be enough.

To help get you started, I'm sharing with you my own spreadsheet of crutch words. It might not look very long, but there are still 90 words on that list. Note that in some cases, there are multiple versions of the same word, for example, run and ran. You might also note that I have both UK and US spellings for words like realise/realize. This is because I write in both UK and US English, and often forget to switch my brain between the two. The different spellings are there to remind me to actually flip my computer dictionary to the other variant.

Add to the list to make it your own. Remember, this is just a tool to help you during the editing process. The true talent of the writer lies within you.

Share in the comments below what might be some of your crutch words. I wonder how many of them are similar to my own.

Screen Capture of WordsToRemove Spreadsheet

Crutch Words Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet is a list of words that you should search for during later editing phases. Add to this list any crutch words that you might have, or any words that your critique partners, beta readers or editors have picked up that you use frequently.  (Note: Crutch words are words that you tend to fall back on when you can't think of another word while writing.)

The list provided is just to get you started. Note that this file is an XLSX file.


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

Posted in Tricks from the Editor's Hat, Writing and Editing and tagged , , .

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