Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crutch or Clutch Words. Throw Them in the Trash

As submission day for Query Kombat '15 nears, I thought it might be helpful to bring up this buried post about crutch words. Every writer has one. Mine is the word back. Or maybe it is still. Who am I kidding? My crutch word is back and still and a whole slew more.

So check your query and 250 words and cut out the crutches. You don't need them!

There are words out there I call crutch words because they pop up repeatedly in stories, as if the writer is leaning on them. I also call them clutch words because they are words a writer clings to, even when keeping them makes no sense.

Crutch words are filler. They float along in the sentence, but they add nothing to its meaning. Nothing except a ratcheted word count. They cause wordy sentences. Bet your bottom dollar that an agent will recognize them for what they are--a waste of space. And we are all guilty of them. Many times, they creep in without the writer being aware. 

So what are these crutch words and how can a person recognize them. Some of the biggest abusers are: just, very, only, even, that. And they also include a whole host of directional words such as up, down, back. (Back being my own personal kryptonite. It's embarrassing but my first manuscript's word cloud had "back" in huge letters.) 

While it's not possible to keep them from a first draft, an editing run through is the perfect place to track and eliminate these crutch words. For some reason these words have a deep place in writer's hearts (especially just), but you have to be ruthless.

What's that? You don't even think it is fair to cut out all your very favorite words. It's not like they add up to so much more word count. It's just the way you write. Editing is only for losers and people who don't have a life.

So my example is extreme but you get the idea. How does that look without the crutch words?

What? You don't think it is fair to cut your favorite words. It's not like they add much word count. It's the way you write. Editing is for losers and people without a life.      

People sometimes add crutch words to dialogue to achieve a particular voice, usually a younger voice or an uneducated one. Remember, too much of it and you are going to drive your readers crazy. 

Be aware and don't let the crutch words have control. 

Confess. What is your crutch word kryptonite? 


  1. "Look"! I am learning to not use it, but it was almost automatic.

  2. Seems used to be but I broke myself of that, in time to have it replaced by other words. It's an ongoing battle.

  3. Confession time? I'm in, because I (ahmm, just) finished taking 40% of the "even"s out of my WIP...

  4. "Continued" is my crutch. And sometimes "seemed".