Avoiding Echoes In Your Manuscript



WHAT IS AN ECHO?

The technical definition of an echo is simple:

Repeating a word or similar version of that word in the same sentence, consecutive sentences, or same paragraph (close proximity).
Pronouns like she/he, character names, and I get a small pass on this as they are repeated intentionally.

Quick and Dirty Examples:

The room was a small child’s bedroom.
Damn he was smooth. And with the looks to match. No. She couldn’t fall for the smooth talking.
We protect magic and the community of magical beings.

While echoes are not totally avoidable in writing it is good to limit them in your work.

Why?

Because an echo interrupts the cadence of your work. A story flows not only because of its plot, it has a natural rhythm to its words. Books are not just blocks of text. They are a mix of sentences in varying lengths. That creates a natural flow and pacing for the reader. But, when we hit an echo, that flow is interrupted. As if listening to a record when it hits a scratch, it’s an almost audible sound for a reader. A distraction, small, but noticeable. Used sparingly, it is not off-putting (we can’t avoid them all), but the more echoes your manuscript has, the more that scratch becomes noticeable to the reader, and can take them out of the story world. We don’t want that.

Echoes can be more pronounced in uncommon words. Even when those words are spaced further apart. Due to the nature of their uniqueness, they will stand out more within readers minds. This goes doubly so for words readers have to stop and look up.

Quick and Dirty Examples:

Kerfuffle
Ochre
Serendipity
Abjure
Ipso Facto
Tittynope

(This is by no means an exhaustive list, just the first few words that came to mind.)
Remember: When choosing words that are not used in everyday conversation, be especially careful how closely you place them in your work.


Rhymes and related sounding words can also create an echo effect. This does not apply to poetry. When writing a manuscript, be aware of this as rhymes have their own cadence and flow that can unravel the pacing of a sentence or paragraph.

Quick and Dirty Examples:

I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it.
At first he was unknown, but now he’s totally in the zone.
He gets a prize if he tries.


SO, HOW DO YOU SEEK AND DESTROY THESE BOTHERSOME ECHOS?

Read your manuscript out loud, or have it read to you.
As the author we are too close to our work to see the mistakes when we read silently. But when the words are given sound the natural rhythm comes out and you’ll hear the record skipping.

Use the find function in your word processor.
Admit it, you have crutch words. We all do. If you know you’re prone to overusing certain words, keep a list handy. Then, when the manuscript is complete, seek and destroy those words. You’ll often need to restructure sentences to remove them, but that’s what revisions are for, right?

Use an editing program.
ProWritingAid is one I use and it has an echo finding feature that will highlight all of the closely repeated words in a manuscript. This will make finding them super easy.


For more Self-Editing Tips, check out these other articles:

Self-Editing Tips and Tricks. Cut these words from your manuscript! - https://www.katiesalidas.com/2020/02/self-editing-tips-and-tricks-cut-these.html

Is your Manuscript ready to be Published? - https://www.katiesalidas.com/2011/07/is-your-manuscript-ready-to-be.html

Avoiding Echoes In Your Manuscript - https://www.katiesalidas.com/2020/05/avoiding-echoes-in-your-manuscript.html


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About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.