Jen’s Editing Tips: Kiss Your As’s Goodbye

For today’s editing tip, I thought I’d focus on a simple word that can ruin a story.

Jen's Editing TipsIt’s a word that might not be as fancy and obvious as some, but as you begin to use it more and more, it’s hard to ignore.

I hope as I carry on you catch it. I promise, it’s right in front of your eyes as you read this. It’s as clear as a summer day. As clear as a sparkling window. As clear as (insert cheesy simile here).

Have you caught it yet? No? Well, as you keep reading, I’m sure you will.

It’s a word many writers like to use as a way to connect and transition their sentences. Even I love it as I sit down to work. It’s as addictive as Peanut M&M’s!

But, as you might’ve noticed by this point, this word becomes a problem the more you use it. It’s redundant, wordy, and as annoying as rush hour traffic. In fact, as I continue to insert it as many times as possible, I feel like banging my head against a wall as hard as I can.

And, as you finish reading this, I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, I get it. Stop before I bang my own head against a wall as hard as I can!”

Okay, okay. I’ll stop before we all start banging our heads against a wall. But, hopefully, you picked up on what I’ll be discussing today: The word “as.”

It’s time to kiss it goodbye.

maxresdefaultIt’s amazing how innocent and sweet this two-letter word seems. But, I assure you it’s not. Writers need to be wary of overusing it in their work for a few reasons:

Repetitive

“As” is just like every other word out there. The more you use it, the more noticeable it becomes. And the more noticeable it becomes, the more distracted readers get. And the more distracted readers get, the less focus they have. And the less focus they have, the more likely they’ll put your story aside and find another.

Ahhh!

Repetitive words can ruin a story. And sweet and innocent ones like “as” are the worst because they sneak in the back door and slowly kill a story by grinding on readers’ nerves. But, don’t worry. There’s a trick you can use to find and eliminate “as.” Simply replace it with another word, preferably a ridiculous one that STANDS out. Like, “hiccup.”

But, hiccup you might’ve noticed by this point, this word becomes a detriment over time. It’s redundant, wordy, and hiccup annoying hiccup rush hour traffic. In fact, hiccup I continue to insert it hiccup many times hiccup possible, I feel like banging my head against a wall hiccup hard hiccup I can.

And, hiccup you finish reading this, I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, I get it. Stop before I bang my own head against a wall hiccup hard hiccup I can!”

Lazy

Way back when, a fellow writer told me, “Stop being lazy! Get rid of the ‘as’ crutch and find a stronger way to word your sentences.”

At first, I didn’t understand what they meant. How was using “as” considered lazy? Well, after working hard to rephrase my sentences to eliminate each one, I saw what they meant. “As” is such an easy strategy to transition our sentences and/or show simultaneous actions. But easy isn’t always better.

With “as”: 

He slammed his hands over his ears as he dug his nails into his tangled hair and screamed and screamed. As he did, the entire canyon shied away from him. Pebbles skittered down the steep walls as birds scattered into the air and gusts came to a halt. Even Caroline took a step back as Gary continued with his unhinged outburst. 

Without “as”: 

He slammed his hands over his ears, dug his nails into his tangled hair, and screamed. Screamed and screamed and screamed. The entire canyon shied away from him. Pebbles skittered down the steep walls, birds scattered into the air, and gusts came to a halt. Even Caroline took a step back, unnerved by Gary’s unhinged outburst.

Wordy

Maybe you’ve noticed by this point, but every time I use “as,” my sentences get longer, clunkier, and more confusing. That’s because they draw out sentences and add unnecessary fluff.

Chop out the fluff!

If you do, your words will land a mightier punch.

With “as”:

A twig snapped behind them. Charlie spun around and, as he aimed the flashlight at another clump of trees, the branches rustled and unease crept up his spine. As he did, he wondered if his dragon had returned? Or if this was another monster? A real one?

“I wanna go back!” Annie squeaked as she yanked on his arm. “Please, Charlie? Please?” 

“Okay!” He gripped his sword as he slowly backed away from the trembling pine needles.

Without “as”: 

A twig snapped behind them. Charlie spun around and aimed the flashlight at another clump of trees. The branches rustled. Unease crept up his spine. Had his dragon returned? Or was this another monster? A real one?

“I wanna go back!” Annie squeaked. “Please, Charlie? Please?” She yanked on his arm.

“Okay!” He gripped his sword and slowly backed away from the trembling pine needles.

Now, should you kiss all of your “as”s goodbye?

No, of course not. Just like every word, “as” has its place. In fact, it could be the perfect one to use to maintain your story’s rhythm and flow. However, you need to be aware of how often you use it. Because, as you might see from this sentence as you read it, the word “as” can become as off putting as an alarm clock on a Monday morning. As irritating as a younger sibling. As distracting as…

Okay, I’ll stop. 😉

I hope this week’s editing tip will help you write stronger, clearer stories!

Don’t forget, my new editing website is up and running. If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

31 thoughts on “Jen’s Editing Tips: Kiss Your As’s Goodbye

  1. Excellent advice. I’ve only just found your blog so I don’t know if you have already done a post on another overused word: ‘that’. I once had a lecturer who employed what he called his that-ometer to my work and in one chapter of roughly 3,000 words picked up over 4oo uses of that. That soon learned me!

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    1. Wow! That is a lot of “that”‘s 😉 I’ve only just begun my Jen’s Editing Tips feature, but “that” is on my topics list. It’s one of my biggest editing pet peeves!

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  2. As I was reading this, I started thinking, as I usually doing after reading such a post, I really can’t remember ever using it in my writing as I try to be as concise as I can be.

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