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Sloppy Writing 101.27

August 24, 2012 by Suzi

The overuse of this next phrase, in the Proper Way to Say Goodbye, was a surprise to me. And I probably would’ve never noticed it if not for a beta reader who said she didn’t like how one character was asking my main character to make promises. I agreed with the beta reader, so then I went through to look for all the places she was doing this. And then I noticed another issue.

I promise.

It wasn’t an issue of overusing—there really were not a lot of occurrences, but it was more of a voice issue. It’s not likely that all these different characters would use the I promise phrase.

So here are some of my examples.

Half hour tops. I promise. I just need a few things. – by Devyn

And I promise to grade you fairly like the rest of the students. – by Sasha

She crossed the line, and I promise to talk to her. – by Sasha

I promise not to tell her when you hit on my girlfriends. – by Brock

Every example of promise can just be replaced by a will.

So although I didn’t have a huge problem with overusing this phrase, I cut back on them to help shape the voices of the characters.

I’m curious if anyone else has had this problem, or if it’s just me.


  1. Chloe Banks says:

    I have this problem with ‘that’s all and ‘is all’. On their own it’s not such a big deal, but somebody pointed out that most of my characters use the phrase. (e.g. “I just wanted to make sure your were OK. That’s all.”). It’s a verbal tic and therefore unlikely that all my characters would say it, so I’ve limited it to one character now!

  2. Cassie Mae says:

    I think I’ve used the phrase I promise maybe once or twice in the 6 books I’ve written, lol.

    I do use ‘and stuff’ a lot. :)

  3. Janeal says:

    I don’t think I’ve used ‘I promise’ like that before. But I’m curious, if it’s showing up in all your character’s voices, does that mean it’s *your* voice. Do you say I promise a lot?

  4. Dana says:

    I don’t think I overuse “I promise”–except maybe in “real” life. 😉

  5. PK Hrezo says:

    Oh yeah, super easy to do. I have to be very careful not to use the same catch phrases for my different characters. That’s what rounds and rounds of revisions are for. 😉

  6. None of my characters promise anything – maybe I need to insert a softy in there somewhere!

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