1. E. Randall

    E. Randall New Member

    Aug 30, 2018
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    Word Counts

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by E. Randall, Aug 30, 2018.

    I’m doing some objective editing on my manuscript. One thing I’m doing is comparing the frequency of my use of various words to some samples I scanned from popular fiction to try and get a handle on if I might be overusing some – such as: knew, I, and, the, their, were, begin, should, and so on. Since my samples are somewhat random, I can’t be sure how good my measuring stick is – thus question (1) below.

    From this work I’ve been doing, two questions keep nagging :

    (1) Are there tables with “reasonable” frequency (i.e. percentage) counts? (By reasonable, I mean if you start to push these limits you’ll likely begin to distract the reader and sound repetitive.) I have found tables of word use based on counts compiled by massive collections of English writing, however, these tables fail in two ways: First, they don’t give ranges or recommended limits – just overall averages; Second, and perhaps more importantly, they don’t take into account the writing type (i.e. creative/fiction/novel) or point of view (i.e. first person).

    (2) I’ve found that, compared to my samples, I overuse possessive pronouns. Specifically: ‘our’ and ‘their’ are much more heavily used than my samples and have proved hard to edit out. I have successfully reduced “my” to a great extent. [I seem to be okay with ‘your’ ‘her’ ‘his’]. ‘Me’ also comes up as a heavily used word in my first-person manuscript; but I've edited it down. Does this indicate some specific issue with the way I write, or does it only indicate I’m overthinking things? Or, perhaps (see (1) above) my measure stick is flawed?

    Thank You
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Jul 5, 2010
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    California, US
    It sure I’d necessarily rely on this as a measuring stick. You don’t want to sound like every other writer, in my opinion. And there might be good reason for your style to diverge from these writers you’re comparing yourself to. There’s no real analysis in a word count—it’s just a number. I think you have to evaluate the writing as a whole and not rely on this kind of counting analysis.
    John Calligan likes this.
  3. Arae

    Arae New Member

    Aug 30, 2018
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    Personally, I'd recommend only using these word counts for adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and so on and so forth; it's expected that pronouns are going to often appear, certain ones more than others, depending on the perspective that the story is told from. Unless the pronouns are managing to result in redundancy, then I don't think that it's something that you need to concern yourself so much with.
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    There is no standard of measure for what you are asking, so I wouldn't worry about it.
    Sure you may or may not have a pronoun game going on at certain points, but you can
    fix that in editing so it doesn't become a ball of confusion to the reader.
    OurJud likes this.
  5. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    I agree.

    As to the analysis, you only know if you need to cut a word if you know what the value of each word is. Many words in most rough drafts can be deleted for stronger words or just taken out altogether, without losing meaning.

    For example:

    The trees blew in the wind. vs. Trees blew in the wind. -- No loss of meaning, so cut "the" if you don't like how it sounds.

    I walked to the grocery store. vs. I walked to grocery store. -- Cutting the "the" in this sentence is problematic.

    He began to walk. vs. He walked. -- We know he began because you just said it.

    Here is a pretty good video on it:

    Cave Troll likes this.

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