Monday, February 9, 2009

Top 10 Weasel Words

Before I begin my list, let me explain what weasel words are for those of you who don’t know. They’re crutch words writers use too often in their writing. In yet another attempt to trim down my last manuscript, here’s my list of overused weasel words out of a cast of 130,000:

  1. looked (189)
  2. even (195)
  3. about (233)
  4. down (310)
  5. just (355)
  6. up (421)
  7. over (469)
  8. could (606)
  9. had (914)
  10. that (1108)
‘That’ is obviously my worst weasel word. Now, it’s not realistic to get rid of all those words. Many times they’re necessary, but I think I can try to cut most of these by at least a third. That’s around 2000 words. Oops, just used another ‘that’. Crap, and another ‘just’. See what I mean? *sigh*


  1. I recently read an article about writing actions that address some weasel-like words. The one that sticks in my head is "reached". The author says something along the lines of you don't need to have "He reached out and cupped her face in his hands." Just "He cupped her face in his hands" will do. It's implied that he reached out.

    Another I look for is falling down. Won't just "falling" be enough? Where else would you fall BUT down? Unless your story is set in zero G I guess : )

    Goodness knows I won't catch all the weasels, but knocking off a few here and there can't hurt.

    Thanks for the list.

  2. Wow, you're very brave and honest. I'll bet those words appear in all our manuscripts.

  3. We call these "taboo words" in my creative writing class.

    I'm a fool for 'really' in speech but can usually avoid it in writing. Not so for 'just' I'm afraid.