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PSA: Don’t Overuse the Word ‘Suddenly’ in Your Writing

Do you abuse the phrase “then suddenly” in your writing? You should check and clean up your manuscript.

Earlier this week, reddit reader Ryan DeJonghe got fed up with overuse of the word “suddenly” in a book. He used Kindle searches to do a brief survey of how writers use the word. Check it out:

Thanks to the Kindle’s search feature, I conducted a little experiment. This 2-D book has 55 uses of suddenly, including three uses of all of a sudden. This averages out to one suddenly for every ten pages. I went on to test some other authors. Stephen King in his early works had about the same average; his newer works about one in twenty pages. Neil Gaiman about the same–one in twenty pages. Then I tried Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club. In 224 pages, there was not a single use of suddenly.

This search method works for any crutch word in your writing. Any time a reader notices you abuse a certain word or phrase, they lose focus on your story.

One reader offered this advice for controlling the word “suddenly.”

the best way to do it is through sentence structure and flow. Shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs convey more happening in more immediate spans of time … Sentence arrangement can also help achieve an effect. Putting the important things first, or arranging things so the word order helps follow the order of action.

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