Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Akimbo (And now words in your own writing that drive you crazy)

I heard about a conversation yesterday involving Fangs and Fonts’ favorite word and thought I would post something here.

I admit, back when I wrote my review for Save the Day, I may have picked on the word Akimbo a bit. At the time it was an unusual word that pulled me out of the story. Later, I realized my main issue was that in the sentence where it was used, it was used awkwardly. “He stood with his arms akimbo, the classical superhero pose, with his hands on his hips.” (or something similar to this. Someone who isn’t at work, please, correct me or post the actual sentence please!)

My issue with its use there is that in one sentence, the author has stated the same thing three times. Why use akimbo if you are going to just define it right after?

But what has made Akimbo F&F’s favorite word has been its use by other authors.
Legs being akimbo.
A man being thrown by an explosive blast to land on the ground with their arms akimbo.
And so on and so forth.

It’s not that we have issues with the word, just how people use it. It’s a perfectly acceptable word to use, and I have seen it used properly a number of times and it hasn’t bothered me at all. But man oh man, when it’s used improperly, it still drags me out of the story like nothing else. :stuck_out_tongue:

My pet peeve word for my own writing is ‘slowly’. It’s on my long list of things to ctrl+f for in a story after the first draft. For whatever reason every first draft I have is just chock full of the word ‘slowly’. The first adverb pass is always a painful one.

Got any like that for yourself, Voice?


OMG do I seem to love that word. There’s always a pass in my writing where I fix them to something else. Drives me crazy, but I can’t seem to break out of it.

Anyone else got a word or two in their own writing that drives them nuts?

Seems I have an ‘as’ problem as well X3 Didn’t even realize how bad it was until I got edits on my WotA story back.

‘Though’ is mine.

I’m trying to get rid of it as much as I can. It’s hard, though.

The technical term is ‘crutch words’: http://www.holtuncensored.com/hu/the-ten-mistakes/

Er, I have a few. A lot of my characters ‘turn around’ to say something, so I’m curtailing that as I sift through. It got to the point where in one of my first drafts of a story, one of my characters turned around twice in one exchange like some flourishing dancer. It just looks ridiculous in my head. Read the sentence before the one you edit on the fly…

While I think adverbs come in for a little more hate than they deserve, the words I need to watch out for most often are the Adverbs of Generic Emphasis: very, really, actually. (And in the last sentence, “a little” is another crutch phrase.)

Also, using the word “thing” (or its close cousin “something”) when a more specific description is appropriate.

Very and indeed.

One of my fave words comes from a SF story in which two characters play a spelling game called “Ghost” for their lives. (They’re in a situation where one must die, but if they fight over who then almost certainly neither will make it.) Each player alternates naming a letter that, added on the end of what has gone before, spells out a word; at any point the player those turn it is can, instead of adding a letter, demand that the other player name the word that his last addition was “aiming” for. If he’s got a real, actual word in mind that he’s spelling out and can prove it, he wins. If not, the other guy wins. (Or if you can’t add a letter without still spelling a valid word, you also lose.) In this case the word was “dirigibloid”(meaning dirigible-shaped), and the characters, after being so calm, rational and intellectual in the face of peril, end up ripping each other to shreds with their fingernails over whether it’s a “real” word or not. Believe it or not, I’ve been able to use “dirigibloid” at least two published works in that story’s honor since then, in places where the term actually flows rather smoothly and adds something to the tale.

So, I reckon it’s a real word after all.

I’m terrible for ‘actually’. I became obsessed with it after reading a James Bond novel where Bond has to pass as American (really!) and Felix Leiter tells him that the one word he must avoid saying at all costs is ‘ectually’:

Bond assured him it was not in his vocabulary.

Oh damn, those guys are so instinctive to me that I forget I even use them. That’s another bad habit of mine. I also throw the phrase ‘to be able to’ or ‘go to get to’ when ‘to’ or ‘go’ are more succinct. It’s not always the case, but I find myself overusing tiny words a lot, and it’s awful for pacing.

I have a huge problem with echoes, and since it was brought to my attention I have been trying to correct them before I send material to an editor. I am better than I used to be, but in my most recent novel, I fixated on the word “massive” for some reason. I don’t know why, but I must have deleted 600 instances of the word.

In my other novel, Huvek, I used the number 200 for everything. 200 enemies on the field, 200 years since this happened, 200 of this, 200 of that. I’m grateful the editor pointed it out so I could fix it, because it wasn’t intentional.

In other stories I’ve repeated “sadly,” and “unfortunately.” Many others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

I think that’s the problem. Writers don’t mean to do these things. We just haven’t had anyone tell us to stop.

That’s what editors, critiquers and ultimately if necessary book reviewers are supposed to do. The fandom is terribly short on these resources, especially competent ones. So…

Don’t get me started. This is a pet rant.

There is a downside to being so closely connected as a fandom. No real feedback. Furry isn’t alone in this however.

So if you ever find a test reader or editor who knows to look for these things and is not afraid to point them out, marry him or her!

I point these things out when I see them…

I’m with Voice - I really hate it when writers use a complex word, and then immediately explain it in the next clause. At least, trust your reader has the ability to understand what you’re saying.


It’s my go-to word when I want to describe a character doing something and don’t know what else to have them doing. I’ve gotten so bad with it that in addition to doing an edit pass to check if I really want to use every instance of “very” I also do an edit pass to check if I really want to use every instance of a character smiling.

I used to do that – overuse characters smiling for no particularly good reason. It was insidious. I had to make a conscious effort to stamp it out.

I tend to overuse the word “just.” It’s just so hard to stop.

I think I tend to overuse the word “tend” as well as the phrase “as well.”

EDIT: I can never take the word “aplomb” seriously.

“So”, “Then”, and a few other things have plagued me. I did a find-and-replace job on my novel text for things like this, and deleted nearly every one. I used to have an ellipsis addiction too… until a kindly editor said my characters all seemed to be trailing off when they spoke. (Edit: Oh yeah, “just” too!)

Recently I heard about “filter words”, a concept that escaped me in all my years of writing. That’s the unnecessary use of “he felt, she thought, they understood” setting up an additional layer of thought between character and reader. Eg. you could change “He felt jagged rocks under his feet” to “Jagged rocks nicked his feet” with no loss of meaning and a greater sense that we, the readers, are feeling them.