C.J. Cherryh, award-winning author of over 60 novels, has compiled a great list titled “Witterisms and other Sins: A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing” in the world of writing. Overused/misused words and phrases are the name of the game and Cherryh brings it home.

Definitely worth a look for any aspiring writer. I sure know I learned a thing or two!

A couple of my favourites:


Dead verbs. Colorless verbs.

* walked
* turned
* crossed
* run, ran
* go, went, gone
* leave, left
* have, had
* get, got

You can add your own often used colorless verbs: these are verbs that convey an action but don’t add any other information. A verb you’ve had to modify (change) with an adverb is likely inadequate to the job you assigned it to do.



“Shouldering his pack and setting forth, he crossed the river … ”

No, he didn’t. Not unless his pack was in the river. Implies simultaneity. The participles are just like any other verbal form. They aren’t a substitute legal everywhere, or a quick fix for a complex sequence of motions. Write them on the fly if you like, but once imbedded in text they’re hard to search out when you want to get rid of their repetitive cadence, because -ing is part of so many fully constructed verbs {am going, etc.}

Check out the whole thing HERE!

  • Chris (The Book Swede) November 8, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    This is a really good list :D I’m going to add it to my “Advice for SFF Writers” section!

    I liked number 11, especially — I do that too often!


  • Gabriele November 9, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    David Gemmell did the -ing thing a lot. ‘Tethering the horse to the post, he walked into the hut.’ Since I write myself, I notice these things, but it never kept me from enjoying Gemmell’s books.

    That’s no excuse to do it myself, of course. :)

  • aidan November 12, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    It doesn’t take a long for a list like this just to show me how much I still have to learn in the art of writing!

    But, I’m always getting better thanks to authors like Cherryh!