Author Topic: Forbidden words  (Read 786 times)  

Offline Paranormal Kitty

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1408
  • Gender: Female
  • Texas
    • View Profile
Forbidden words
« on: April 15, 2018, 03:50:52 PM »
No, not those kind. :) Why do some people say you are never supposed to use certain words, such as "because", "but", "to be", etc.? The list of forbidden words seems to vary by individual.

Offline Bill Hiatt

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3464
  • Gender: Male
  • California
    • View Profile
    • Bill Hiatt's Author Website
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 03:54:34 PM »
No, not those kind. :) Why do some people say you are never supposed to use certain words, such as "because", "but", "to be", etc.? The list of forbidden words seems to vary by individual.
I've never heard anyone use any of those words as forbidden. I have heard advice not to overuse be verbs. The others might be the product of oversimplified rules used in a school setting. For instance, I have heard, "You can't start a sentence with because." In fact, you can. the rule was designed to avoid subordinate clause fragments, but as long as the adverb clause starting with because is followed by an independent clause, there's no real problem.


Tickling the imagination one book at a time
Bill Hiatt | fiction website | education website | Facebook author page | Twitter

Offline Becca Mills

  • Moderator
  • Status: Emily Dickinson
  • *****
  • Posts: 9356
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • website
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 04:02:04 PM »
Yeah, I think it's often a case of misunderstanding a rule or pushing a suggestion to needless extremes. Like, "adverbs are easily overused, so be careful" becomes "death to all adverbs everywhere."

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk


Offline Usedtoposthere

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5973
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 04:03:49 PM »
Fiction isn't an English paper. Fragments are my friend. :) I often start sentences with "because" or "but." Including sentences that turn out to be ... fragments.

Offline rdperry57

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 62
  • Gender: Male
  • Livingston, Texas
    • View Profile
    • Rick Perry - Author Page
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2018, 04:06:43 PM »
I'm a former English teacher, but I often write in fragments. As far as those "certain" words, I've never heard of them being forbidden. I say whatever works for you and your style!

Rick Perry | Rick Perry's Blog

Offline Becca Mills

  • Moderator
  • Status: Emily Dickinson
  • *****
  • Posts: 9356
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • website
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2018, 04:08:59 PM »
Another English-teacher vote for fragments. Love 'em!

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk


Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1129
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2018, 05:48:50 PM »
No, not those kind. :) Why do some people say you are never supposed to use certain words, such as "because", "but", "to be", etc.? The list of forbidden words seems to vary by individual.

Well, it would be easier to answer this if you gave a specific list of words you wanted to talk about.

In general though, yeah, I think it's just that people will take advice to be careful about overusing it and interpret it as don't ever use it, then spread that around. Because people just kind of work that way, if you've noticed.

Offline P.J. Post

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2792
  • There is no spoon.
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2018, 05:52:57 PM »
Fiction isn't an English paper. Fragments are my friend. :) I often start sentences with "because" or "but." Including sentences that turn out to be ... fragments.

This and...

Another English-teacher vote for fragments. Love 'em!

This.

The answer to these discussions is always to serve the story; grammar has few if any rules, just lots of recommendations.
Carnival of Sighs: Palimpsest, Book 5: 50%

120 BPM: Pirate Radio: 30%

120 BPM: Factions: 80%
P.J. Post | Facebook | Website | Goodreads | Short Fiction Writers Guild

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1129
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2018, 06:00:33 PM »
Fiction isn't an English paper. Fragments are my friend. :) I often start sentences with "because" or "but." Including sentences that turn out to be ... fragments.

I use fragments very frequently.

And remember, Beowulf starts with "So". And that story's managed to last quite a while without anyone much caring about that.

Offline Dolphin

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1954
  • Gender: Male
  • Under the Sea
  • Skree'ee--eee, eeek!
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2018, 06:03:20 PM »
I've always thought this post on banishing thought-related verbs was interesting. Need concrete advice on how to show more and tell less? Striking thought verbs is a good place to start.

As with every other writerly guideline under the sun, it's a tool and not an ironclad rule. I think we can all agree to stipulate that and move on.

Online L_Loryn

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 325
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2018, 06:31:36 PM »
You forgot "that". And that's the only one I really try to cut out of my prose ;)


I like Dolphin's article about thought verbs-- launching into the memory is so much better than giving a thought-verb lead-in.


And I think the ultimate take-away from any forbidden word list is to limit the usage. I allow myself to use "that" every 1k words or so, same with an adverb. They're more special when you think about where you'e putting them.

Offline Usedtoposthere

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5973
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2018, 06:55:57 PM »
I just counted, and I've used "that" 1046 times so far in 65K words in the WIP. I also use adverbs plenty. I'm considered a fairly elegant writer, I believe, in my genre. I use whatever makes the prose flow better, whatever makes the meaning clearer. 

I do watch thought verbs, because I write in deep third person, and saying that somebody saw, heard, or thought something is distancing.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 07:21:24 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline MClayton

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 314
  • Gender: Female
  • Florida
    • View Profile
    • Website
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2018, 06:56:43 PM »
No, not those kind. :) Why do some people say you are never supposed to use certain words, such as "because", "but", "to be", etc.? The list of forbidden words seems to vary by individual.

I think the "but" and "because" rule probably has to do with the old rule of not starting sentences with a preposition or a conjunction (although some argue "because" isn't a conjunction). I don't know where that rule came from, but I ignore it, for the most part. As far as "to be" verbs, it's because active voice in writing is usually considered superior to passive voice. But, as so often happens, it's been taken to extremes. Not every use of "was" (a "to be" verb) is passive voice. Sometimes, it's just plain old past tense. And sometimes, passive voice works best.

Edit to add: I just started one sentence with "but," and another with "and." I'm doomed.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 07:04:53 PM by MClayton »

Online Patty Jansen

  • Status: Harvey Chute
  • *********
  • Posts: 12324
  • Gender: Female
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Destroyer of Science Fiction
    • View Profile
    • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2018, 07:20:52 PM »
I have a couple of "rules":

1. Every word or grammatical construction in the English language is there for a reason. That means that sometimes no other word or construction will do.

2. If someone says that you're overusing xyz, they are probably correct. However, the answer is to delete/reword half of them, because if you delete all of them (also because of point 1) you end up with an infinitely less readable text.

3. Thought words: sometimes "thought" and "saw" and "realised" are the operative verb in the sentence. In that case, you shouldn't delete them. At (many) other times, you could, but seriously, who cares?

4. Your task as developing writer is to learn all the rules, and then to forget them. However remember why these rules come to life: because we want more vivid writing, less confusion, packed into fewer words.

Online L_Loryn

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 325
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2018, 10:28:30 PM »
I just counted, and I've used "that" 1046 times so far in 65K words in the WIP. I also use adverbs plenty. I'm considered a fairly elegant writer, I believe, in my genre. I use whatever makes the prose flow better, whatever makes the meaning clearer. 

I do watch thought verbs, because I write in deep third person, and saying that somebody saw, heard, or thought something is distancing.

I think "that" is mostly implied so half the time where "that" is used can be taken out. Same thing with "of" -- can be omitted a lot of the time to make things cleaner.

I watch the thought verbs and the "suddenly" as well because of a deep third person. I forget sometimes but hey, it is what it is.

Oh... and I used "that" 8 times in a 25k WIP. Not going to go through and check adverbs but I imagine I have a fair amount. I don't police adverbs as much.

Offline The Bass Bagwhan

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1095
  • Gender: Male
  • Western Australia
  • Horror & Urban Fantasy... I think.
    • View Profile
    • Graeme Hague
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2018, 03:30:17 AM »
Just get rid of every instance of "which was".
Author, freelance writer and editor, professional musician, recording engineer... published in Australia, the UK and Germany. So why am I poor? Oh, wait...
I'll be a writer... seemed like a good idea at the time

Offline wilsonharp

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 529
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2018, 06:17:09 AM »
I just counted, and I've used "that" 1046 times so far in 65K words in the WIP. I also use adverbs plenty. I'm considered a fairly elegant writer, I believe, in my genre. I use whatever makes the prose flow better, whatever makes the meaning clearer. 

I do watch thought verbs, because I write in deep third person, and saying that somebody saw, heard, or thought something is distancing.

My "that" problem became so severe I began doing a "that" audit as the least step before sending to my editor. About half are removed outright, and many others are replaced with "which" and occasionally "who". Really improved my writing, but, because apparently I use the word so much in my daily speaking, hard to catch in my writing until I do my audit.
     

Offline Doglover

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5024
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2018, 06:19:18 AM »
No, not those kind. :) Why do some people say you are never supposed to use certain words, such as "because", "but", "to be", etc.? The list of forbidden words seems to vary by individual.
Never heard of anything that says not to use any of those. Where did you read/hear it?


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Newsletter

Offline Paranormal Kitty

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1408
  • Gender: Female
  • Texas
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2018, 06:30:56 AM »
Never heard of anything that says not to use any of those. Where did you read/hear it?

Well, on KBoards for one thing. https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,244881.msg3592580.html#msg3592580 First post top of page, "I was taught never to use the word because in creative writing, so that list is very useful. Thank you!"

A whole thread about removing "to be" https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,256126.0.html

But this kind of thing seems to crop up wherever writing is being discussed. I even had a professor in college who didn't allow us to use the word "interesting". I just don't follow the logic of eliminating basic words from your vocabulary. Maybe it's a US thing?

Offline Doglover

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5024
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2018, 06:34:59 AM »
Well, on KBoards for one thing. https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,244881.msg3592580.html#msg3592580 First post top of page, "I was taught never to use the word because in creative writing, so that list is very useful. Thank you!"

A whole thread about removing "to be" https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,256126.0.html

But this kind of thing seems to crop up wherever writing is being discussed. I even had a professor in college who didn't allow us to use the word "interesting". I just don't follow the logic of eliminating basic words from your vocabulary. Maybe it's a US thing?
Words are words and are there to be used, in the right context. To exclude any words is just ridiculous and rather pompous. I have been editing for a friend who tends to write narrative the way she talks in that she will use 'never' when she really should use 'didn't', but that is in narrative which is completely different to dialogue.

If 'to be' is excluded, someone should perhaps have told Shakespeare as one of the most famous lines from him is 'to be, or not to be'. I believe in writing what comes naturally and to hell with the opinion of some nonentity.


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Newsletter

Offline Fleurina

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 147
  • Gender: Female
  • West Coast of Scotland
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2018, 06:50:38 AM »
I'm no expert but believe they are known as 'sticky words'  ones you can remove if you want and the meaning stays the same, but the manuscript flows more easily- such as that, so, think, thought, started to, just  etc.  Here is a link which gives a partial list:
https://www.publicationcoach.com/sticky-words/
Kick Anxiety & Live in the Now: 80%

Haunted Scottish Castle - Izzie Firecracker 3: 10%
Janet Butler Male | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Offline D. Zollicoffer

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 781
    • View Profile
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2018, 08:52:40 AM »
Was, But, and Didn't are my problem words. So I always go through my WIP and remove 50% of them.

Offline GrandmaBirdie

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Gender: Female
  • Pecking-On-Keyboard, Terra
  • Everyone is a reader with an opinion that matters.
    • View Profile
    • Musings
Re: Forbidden words
« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2018, 09:25:09 AM »
If you see "never," "always," or even worse "never ever" in rules that refer to taboo words or punctuation, beware.