Repetitive Words

We all suffer from repetitive word syndrome, and it’s not secluded to writers. In speech, in text, in body language habits and micro-expressions, we all have words we frequently use and actions we repeat. It is what shapes us – it’s what makes you, you – and each person witnessing it, or reading it, notices.

The problem is, when we read it, we become annoyed. In books, each character should have their own personality. If the writer does not capture that personality, often using words that do not match the character, but instead, the writer’s own personality, it flusters a reader.

Recently, I have finished a manuscript – my next book – and spent a week rummaging through repetitive words. “That,” “step,” and “eye,” were mine. Naturally, I became angry for the workload I placed upon myself, and I came up with a list to prevent problems in the future. Below, you’ll see my thoughts on the words listed above.

“That” is often a tricky word. More times than not, it is empty, which means we mistakenly place it in sentences believing it is needed. Now, I’m not advising any writer to get rid of the word entirely. If you expel “that” from your manuscript, the text can seem robotic, therefore, you will have issues with the reader connecting to the character. Character development is crucial, so before you press the delete bottom, ask yourself if it truly belongs.

“Eye,” was a tricky one for me. I was using it to describe action – the character turning their direction of sight from one person or scene, to the next.

Example: “I turn my attention from Erma and eye Jaemes as he lumbers through the doorway.”

What I should have wrote: “I turn my attention from Erma and study Jaemes’ pinched expression as he lumbers through the doorway.”

Something along those lines. You get my point. Some of the time, it’s not even needed to describe such an action, but more often than not, it is, simply because it’s an appropriate time to insert emotion, indirect thoughts, or personality. Here is a list I came up with to swap out ‘eye’ in the future:

  • Leer
  • Gaze
  • Glance
  • Attention
  • Gape
  • Ogle
  • Scan
  • Inspect
  • Contemplate
  • Study
  • Survey
  • Peruse
  • Regard
  • Veer
  • Watch
  • Examine
  • Probe
  • Observe
  • Search

“Step,” I was using to describe someone moving – whether that be a shuffle to the side, a step forward, or a step back. Below is a list of replacements:

  • Footfall
  • Stride
  • Pace
  • Gait
  • Shuffle
  • Hobble
  • Scuffle
  • Lumber
  • Slouch
  • Stagger
  • Falter
  • Stumble
  • Totter
  • Dodder
  • Weasel
  • Withdraw
  • Shirk
  • Stalk
  • Sashay
  • Slide
  • Skate
  • Stomp
  • Traipse
  • March
  • Drag
  • Straggle
  • Pad
  • Tip Toe
  • Stealth
  • Creep
  • Cautious
  • Skulk
  • Glide
  • Lurk
  • Slither
  • Scramble
  • Sneak
  • Slink
  • Tread
  • Trot
  • Run
  • Jog
  • Waddle
  • Barge
  • Slog
  • Plod
  • Skim
  • Slip
  • Recoil
  • Cringe
  • Shy Away
  • Draw Back
  • Pull Back
  • Swerve


It is important to broaden your usage, and discover new ones that more accurately describe your repetitive words. More often than not, your repeater will be a simple word that has many choices for replacement. However, the trouble is being aware you have a ‘repeater’ in the first place.

In Word, you can easily check this. Use Control + F, search random, simple words, and find a replacement on the online thesaurus.

Examples of words to search: anger, smile, frown, walk, that, which, as, thing, like, so, said, says, very.

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