Words That Don’t Belong

I am writing a mystery series, and in my quest to find a forgotten fact from the first volume, I used the the word ‘back’ for my search. As I skimmed through the manuscript, ‘back’ occurred far more often than I would have thought, and nearly every one was unnecessary.

What a revelation — and it points to something I know lives in the back of my mind, to come out when I’m editing: omit pet words and phrases unless it is absolutely the best word to use.

For example:

“His worst fears were now fact: facing Miki’s death and owning up to his ties with the Fujimoris overcame Sato as he made his way back to Azabu Station.”

Omit back:

“… he made his way to Azabu Station.”

Or this: “Mrs. Abe went on to report that the delinquent was back, …”

Better: “Mrs. Abe went on to report that the delinquent had returned, …”

Then there is: “Katsuhara knew without asking he was going to take his boss back to the Plum Blossom.”

Better: “Katsuhara knew without asking he was going to take his boss to the Plum Blossom.”

I found this to be true with words like turn, got, replied —  simple words that once the sentence is spoken aloud, sound out of place.

What words do you regularly use and then omit from your manuscript?

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