Stick Figures

OMG, Word Space!

imageWord space = the amount of space in a text that passes before a given word pops up again

Listening to books on disc in your car that have not been revised for word space = you flailing your arms and shouting obscenities while pedestrians stare in bewilderment

Imagine, if you will, that all words have a unique charge.  They push away from each other, so you can’t have too many of them in the same page or even in the same chapter.  The exceptions to this rule include articles, pronouns, and other frequently used words that are basic to the reader’s comprehension.  Almost every other word, like voice for instance, needs to be handled with care.

Terrible example:

“Are you going to kiss me now?” Ronald asked in a husky voice.

Burger’s voice dropped in pitch. “Oh yes.”

“Then why,” Ronald started, his voice catching, “don’t you take off that box and come over here?” *end scene*

Granted, the book playing in my car had a good enough plot to get me through dialogue like this (something much more riveting than burger love), but every time a word got repeated, I felt like digging my fingernails into the dashboard.

People please REVISE FOR WORD SPACE!  Otherwise, I swear, I’ll go flying off a cliff.

Michelle Joyce Bond


23 thoughts on “OMG, Word Space!

  1. I notice this too. And have you noticed that some authors have particular words which they use over and over again? Drives me crazy!

      1. Isn’t it interesting, though, some of the words that authors overuse. Sometimes it can really pull me away from the story – I focus on this little idiosyncrasy and then I’m just disconnected. It’s weird.

      2. I do find it strange. I doubt authors often speak with the same level of vocabulary, too. I guess it’s in the nature of writing to reveal how strange we often are. 🙂

  2. Your posts seem to have great timing for me. I’m currently reading my manuscript out loud for its fourth draft. I didn’t really want to because it takes longer, but I knew I should. Many things become apparent that don’t when one is reading silently, and word spacing is one of them. I hadn’t realized I used a form of the word ‘buzz’ five times within a few paragraphs until I read it out loud. Yikes! (It was in reference to an ER door buzzing open.) We can’t do a ‘find’ search for every word to avoid over-usage, so reading out loud is a good way to pick up on those repetitions we might not otherwise.

    1. Agreed–as soon as I realize I’ve overused a word, I do a word search. I also laugh out loud as I read the lines asking, “How did I manage to so obviously screw this up?” I had a professor in college that I worked with on a mind-mapping project during which we performed word searches on classic books, looking for the hidden subconscious left by those authors. Word space can say a lot about your state of mind. 🙂

      1. Yes, exactly. 🙂 Today I found four ‘equally’s within a few pages. According to the ‘find’ function, I don’t use that word any place else in the novel, but apparently in that particular chapter I felt the need to unleash it…

      2. I have the same problem trying to describe the bad guys in my novel. I found, upon editing, that I way overuse the word “thug.” Not only was it overused, but I realize now what my 15-year-old brain was unable to comprehend at the time. Namely, “thug” is kind of a dumb, somewhat immature word.

  3. Wow! So true! I laughed really hard while reading your post, at some of your examples – especially with the dialogue – reminded me of the kinds of stuff I came across all the time while working as a junior editor, through a slush pile! Oy!

  4. Yes! I’m with you on this. I find it extremely distracting when I’m reading and come across this because I instantly go out of reader mode and into editor mode, which requires me to think of what would have been a better word before I can go on, and interrupts the flow of the story. The editing force is strong with me…now if only I wasn’t horribly guilty of doing this in my own writing…fortunately the editing force…well, you know.

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