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Sloppy Writing 101.19

June 29, 2012 by Suzi

Another word I overused was probably. Probably isn’t a bad word. And I wasn’t using it wrong. I just didn’t need it.

I went into FROSTY recently and did a search. I found 72 probablys. So it’s not on par with my overuse of just or that, but writing experts say every words counts. And if I don’t need that probably, I should take it out.

Here are a few examples.

-I had probably broken most of her rules during my time with her.
(Sydney did break most of those rules, so why use probably?)

-She’d probably make fun of them, all hoity-toity, which is what she called people who thought they were better than us.
(Sydney knows darn well her mother would make fun of the Claytons. I don’t need the probably.)

-Maybe, but I’ll probably die from your driving long before smoking kills me.
(Sydney’s being snarky here, the probably lessens the impact.)

-Corbin’s all-brick house was monstrous—probably three times the size of Brooke’s.
(We know she’s guessing; she doesn’t have the floor plans and square footage, so no need for probably.)

After I deleted all my unnecessary probablys, I had 39. Not a huge change, but if I want to make every word count, this is a good word to start with.


  1. Jolene says:

    What’a funny is that some characters are worse than others.

    I KNOW not to overuse “just” I KNOW it.
    And still, in a recent MS, it came up WAAAY too much. It was a dual POV book and I realized that while writing the boy, I used it like 3 times in the whole book. For the girl? I didn’t do a count, but it took me nearly an hour to get rid of them.

    And probably – that one came up a lot in my last MS and as I took them out, it made the book SO much stronger, b/c that decisiveness when it’s gone really does something.

  2. Jenny Morris says:

    Which, ended up being a recent one for Kelley and I. And, well. Hate those repeat offenders.

  3. I bought a year subscription to autocrit when I needed to get through my manuscript in a hurry. It lists the main offenders for you, tells you how many you have, how many “standard” manuscripts have, and then gives you a pat on the back if you don’t break the rule. It was so immensely helpful, and going through and rewriting sentences so I didn’t use words like probably, maybe (a BIG one for me), the feeling/felt/feel words, etc… really changed the way I looked at using those words. They have a place, but sometimes it’s just me being lazy!

  4. I know what you mean about “making every word count!” So important. I have tons of words I overuse. I need to watch it on the “probably’s” too! They are easy to throw in there when they’re not necessary. Sounds like you got some good editing done. Amazing how it tightens things up to get rid of those excess words! :)

  5. Suddenly is a big offender for me. I’ve tried to figure out how to stay away from it, but it’s a constant struggle. I probably couldn’t do without it. :)

  6. Bethan Myers says:

    Great post. I overuse, just, coincidentally, and therefore. So bad. And I have to spell check ‘stared’ every single time.

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