Editing Tip #120 – Pounding Out the Place-Holder Words

When it comes to a first draft many writers prefer to just ‘get it out’ – like verbal diarrhea (euww). But it’s often easier to fine-tune and fix things in a second draft than trying to get every sentence and every word perfect the first time around.

I’ve mentioned before how we’ll often use “was” or “that” far more frequently than necessary, in a first draft, just so we can ‘get it out’ and on the page. Here are three more place holders to watch out for when you dive back in to tighten up your prose:




The more specific you can be, in most cases but not all, the better.

“Don’t drag it across the floor.”

“Grab that thing over there and pass it over.”

“Oh, you know, I love all sports: skiing, swimming, etc.

In life, as in dialogue (above), the use of these easy ‘go to’ words makes sense – so long as it’s clear what you’re saying. But in narrative prose, don’t fall into these traps.

It felt sticky and slimy.

slimy hand

jurvetson – flickr : Creative Commons.

Her hand felt sticky and slimy.

The thing wove itself around the frame of the car one tentacle at a time.

The beast wove itself around the frame of the car one tentacle at a time.

The foul stench of rotting flesh, etc. gagged the breath from my throat.

The foul stench of rotting flesh and fetid bile gagged the breath from my throat.

Now you try πŸ™‚

Happy Editing!

Categories: Editing, Notifications

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2 replies

  1. Like lip balm for your eyes. I was just obsessing over “was.” But… but… its?! I like its.


    • I know what you mean, Matt πŸ˜‰
      It’s not that you can’t ‘ever’ use “its” but often your sentences, and therefore your images, become stronger when you substitute these easy words for something more precise. It’s a lot to have to keep in mind, but the more times you practice these tips during your drafting phases, the better a self-editor you’ll become!


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