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No need for repetition in writing

January 3, 2016


Photo: Julie Jordan Scott (CC)

Experienced writers find themselves blessed with a hefty vocabulary to deploy as needed. The mot juste can make or break a sentence.

I find that in crafting long articles and blog posts, I run out of words. Specifically, I repeat words unnecessarily.

During editing, I hunt down those offending scamps and replace them with synonyms. Judiciously, of course.

Careful editing and attention to word usage can improve writing significantly.

The best way to determine if a story is clanging with the echoes of repeated words is to use the free online tool TagCrowd. It can show the frequency of word usage for any article or Web page within seconds with a tag cloud.

I ran TagCrowd on one of my longer recent posts on email marketing.

tagcrowd tag cloud

Tag cloud generated by TagCrowd
(click image for full-size version)

Not surprisingly, the words “email” and “marketing” are the among the most used in the 729-word post. Other frequent fliers are “click,” “open,” “rates” and “newsletter,” since I refer to click rates and open rates. Overall, I’m happy with usage and frequency.

Had I written a 5,000-word feature story about pens, I’d expect to see “pen” pop up dozens of times. Would I replace them with synonyms fountain pen, marker, stick, nib, quill, reed, ball point and felt-tip? No way.

We edit to improve clarity and to punch up the writing. In editing the book “The Future of Birmingham,” I looked out for my essay writers by removing repetitive words within essays and repetitive words, phrases and ideas across essays.

For example, occasionally a writer would use the nickname “the Magic City” to refer to Birmingham. He might do it once, but across multiple authors and essays, it adds up. The easiest and most readable solution was to drop all the Magic City references and use either “the city” or “it” or “Birmingham.”

Using a well-rounded vocabulary adds shading and interest to writing. It shows an author’s focus on an audience. And it prevents the lull of unneeded hypnotic repetition.

Through careful editing and a quick review of word frequencies, a writer can craft a blog post or an article with maximum impact.

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