Every Word Counts

Many years ago while editing a nonfiction book, I noticed the author had a proclivity for using the word “very” quite often. To me the repetition jumped off the page.

After deleting 95% of its use, I returned the manuscript; the author was mortified that their work had such an obvious error in it. Hilariously, I later received an email with the word “very” repeated over and over, at least 500 times (very very very very very very, etc.). Then came the message, “Just trying to get that word out of my system before I write my next book.”

Recently I came across a cool online tool where you can see which of your words are repeated too often. Use this link to the website and run your WIP (work in progress) within its walls.

I ran the Guidelines page on our website in this counter. In a 1,887-word document, I use the word “proposal” 28 times, the word “mail” 20 times, and the word “book” 19 times. Not abnormal considering the nature of the article.

Out of curiosity I ran the full text of a public domain edition of the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A’Kempis (59,454 words) and discovered that the word “God” is used 410 times, “things” 336 times, “man” 260 times, and “good” 217 times. On the site there is a little check box on the statistic box that allows it to review three words used together. This book uses the phrase “above all things” 20 times.

The reading level was evaluated to be at 11-12th grade.

In other words (no pun intended), the sample book is well written without odd words or phrases that were overused.

Which begs the question about your work in progress. What words have you overused in your manuscript?

Later I took one paragraph from the A’Kempis book at random and entered it into the system and clicked to have it check for plagiarism. It took me to which reported, “We’ve found 6 writing issues in your text and have also detected significant plagiarism.” To verify the issues, you have to sign up on that site and pay for their services. But apparently teachers use this to check students’ papers for plagiarism.

Read their Privacy Policy to make sure you are comfortable transmitting your work to a website based in Switzerland.

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