We all do it. Pick the first word that comes to mind as you are writing. It is usually the simplest word we can thinking that rush to jot down that spectacular idea that got us writing. But now you are on to your second draft, and the overused words have got to go.
As you may remember, I moderate a small writing group on Thursdays. We bring in our writing for review, and we also do writing exercises. There is one in particular I have them do to combat overused words. I though you might benefit from this exercise too, reader.
I begin by giving them a list of three or four words. For example, last week I gave them: hot, cold, scary, and friend. Note that these are simple, overused words that do not make for interesting reading.
Once they have written the words down, they have ten minutes to write as many different words or phrases with the same or similar meaning for each word. You many not use any tools (such as Google or a thesaurus) to help you. All the words must come from your own head.
This is a great way to encourage yourself to think of more interesting ways to phrase things. Before you know it, you will be searching for synonyms to simple words naturally on the first go around.
Here is an example of replacement words for Hot (to give you an idea of what my group came up with):
Scorching, parched, burning, sweltering, sizzling, warm, roasted, burned.
If you would like to try it out, here is a list of words to get you started:
Go ahead, show yourself how
smart clever you are. Happy writing!