I’m Having a Love Affair With ‘Had’!

aid174983-v4-728px-Stop-Saying-the-Word-_Like_-Step-4-Version-2On more than one occasion I have declared my love affair with the word ‘had’. When you use a word so many times it jumps off the page, you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if the word is used correctly or not. You need to find another way to write the sentence without using ‘the word’. In my case that word is ‘had’.

What’s wrong with using the word ‘had’ over and over, besides making it an awkward read?

  • If you are using ‘had’ a lot, odds are you have a lot of backstory/info dump, because it specifically details things that happened before the current action. In some circumstances, that can seem dull, or like the focus is in the wrong place. Why spend so much time on something that’s not happening right now?
  • Using ‘had’ too much can also indicate you are telling vs. showing.
  • ‘Had’ is also rather formal. People rarely say ‘he had put on weight’- you say ‘he’d put on a bit of weight’ or ‘he was looking fatter’ something to that effect.
  • If it’s overused to the point that it becomes noticeable to the reader. It is bad.

For this blog, I’m focusing on ‘had’ because it’s a problem word for me. Most of us have them. They could be words like but, although, because, however, that, and if you’re writing dialogue–so(another one of my favorites that I know to look out for 🙂

To a certain extent, this is a matter of style. Plenty of writers have these little tics. You may find a turn of phrase that you fall in love with, or it may be a word that carries over from the way you speak. As I stated above with ‘had’, only if a word or phrase is overused to the point that it is noticeable to the reader, does it become a bad thing.

Noticing that you use a particular word frequently, is the first step to improving your writing. If you realize you are in the process of abusing a word while you are writing, make some adjustments, but don’t get bogged down for a half an hour trying to decide if ‘your word’ is really necessary.

The best time to work on these tics, is after you’ve written a chunk of prose. Go back through and look for your problem word. You can use the find feature on your computer (Usually ctrl-F or command-F). As you edit, double-check to see if the word is really necessary, or if it can be changed. If you have to, rewrite the entire sentence.

Food for thought. I bet I’m not alone in my love affair with certain words 🙂

-Jan R








I’m Having a Love Affair With ‘Had’!

What’s In Your Toolbox?

tools-for-insights-into-your-display-advertising-compete-pulse-kwccu6-clipartSo as a writer I find myself relying on numerous sources for information. I need to know how to write a cohesive, well written sentence, but I also need facts, and I need to know what to look out for. We all make errors when writing and goodness knows I will never be perfect, but I do have some reference sites I use to make my writing better.

I thought I would share those with you and ask that you share sites that have been helpful to you as you navigate the world of writing fiction.

I’m not going to include a dictionary or thesaurus in my list, as I feel they are a given. I would recommend if  you have access to a smartphone to ask Siri for spelling, definitions and synonyms. She can find the information and give it to you in a matter of seconds. I keep her next to me while I write.

Other tools that I use include:

  • Emotion Thesaurus – Look up the emotion you are trying to express and you get a list of actions, facial expressions, and sounds commonly associated with the emotion. Example:  Shock/Surprise-  small gasp, heavy feel in the stomach, reaching hand up to lightly clasp throat, flayed hands across chest, a shaky voice-soft-halting-unbelieving.

I found a free emotion thesaurus online but was unable to locate more than excerpts while writing this blog. They aren’t expensive and can be purchased on line and saved to your laptop for easy access.

  • grammar.about.com-200 common redundancies – is another great site for writers. I was amazed at how often I added redundancies to my writing. Examples: (brief) moment, circulate (around), (current) incumbent, disappear (from sight)-I think you get the gist.

You can find this one online for free. It gives an extensive list and gets you to think about what you are writing. Are you using redundant words?

  • worldatlas.com – get the facts about the countries your characters are moving through. You want to pull your readers in and make the settings believable. The world atlas provides information such as weather, language, currency, time zones, religious beliefs.

My main character spends a brief period of time in Afghanistan. The world atlas along with other research, provided information I needed to make that chapter believable.

  • wsu.edu/brians/errors/errors.html- is another great site that provides common errors made in English writing.

Hope these sites are helpful to you. I have visited and used them all. The only caution I would give is with the ‘world atlas’ site. I get a lot of pop-ups and advertisements while navigating through for information. I’m not sure if it’s just my computer or if it’s common to this site.

-Jan R


What’s In Your Toolbox?