Saturday, 24 January 2015

23 things to avoid

Here's another repeat posting from the now defunct Magic Beans Blog - because I am in the throws of editing and it's always worth remembering how NOT TO do it. 

  1. Weak words – got, that, stuff, really, went, was, had, things
  2. Passive sentences – EG Instead of the burger was eaten by the child, try, the child ate the burger. Instead of the boy was chased by a cow, try, a cow chased the boy.
  3. Wordy writing – EG Instead of she was eating, try, she ate. Instead of he was walking slowly, try, he dawdled.
  4. Superfluous adverbs (he said angrily, she walked quickly from the room)
  5. Vague words – seem, approximately, about, appear, look as if, roughly, more or less, give or take, almost, nearly
  6. Indistinct nouns – for example, instead of ‘flowers’ say roses, instead of ‘dog’ say spaniel, instead of ‘car’ say Ford Fiesta
  7. Adjacent sentences without connective tissue   
    Too much show...
  8. Repetition of words, sentences and ideas
  9. Over-reliance on show or tell (either can be tedious)  
  10. Blow by blow description of character movements 
  11. Failure to engage all senses, and relying on facial reactions and dialogue for effect.  
  12. Clichéd phrases, images, ideas
  13. Disorganisation on every level (sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter) 
  14. Lack of clarity
  15. No sense of place or atmosphere
  16. One dimensional, clichéd or stereotypical characters  
  17. Characters using each others names repeatedly when talking to each other
  18. Wooden, boring and/or irrelevant dialogue
  19. Reliance on dialogue to convey information to the reader
  20. Plot holes
  21. Abandoned plot threads or characters
  22. Coincidences that easily resolve tough situations
  23. Exclamation marks!!!
    ...or too much tell?


  1. Hi Wendy! This is the best list to help with editing I've seen in a long time. Thank you! Pinning it for future reference. ;D

    1. Thanks, Vashti. Glad you found it useful. Good luck with your editing/writing. X


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