Just finished incorporating edits by Richard Jenzen into my next novel, Healer’s Sword, as usual I discovered I had picked up a bad habit. In this case – the repeated word. Sometimes it’s sort of subtle as in: ” … remind him how important it was he come clean with the League of Women, so he could come back to help.” Did you notice the two uses of “come”? Sometimes it just makes you wince, as in: “He turned to her. She turned back.” (Ouch!)
Word repetitions offend my editor when they come within a line or two of each other. But repeating phrases like “under the circumstances” is a ‘no no’ even if they are a page apart. And I agree — nineteen times out of twenty. There are rare cases where a writer purposefully repeats to produce an effect.
Here’s the challenge: haul out a piece of your own work and review it for repeating words or phrases. In each case, decide if the repetition adds or detracts from the work. While you are at it, make up your mind about what constitutes a repeating word. You will probably want to exempt some of the little, handy ones like “a” and “is”. But maybe not always.
And last but not least, count this as a “2nd pass” or copyediting exercise, not something to bog you down in a first draft.