How often do you wink? Probably not that much, but it’s amazing how much winking occurs in fictional worlds. Characters are winking at each other all the time. Novelists with whom I work are limited to one wink per book.

Hank Phillippi Ryan wrote a great post on crutch words: words, phrases or actions that are unconsciously repeated throughout an author’s work. Crutch words can become noticeable to readers—even annoying. Readers might come to feel that a book’s characters should not be blinking or grimacing or sighing quite so much.

It’s not that you shouldn’t use these words or phrases. Just use them deliberately, and do not use them over and over.

In a highly scientific study, I surveyed a cyberpile of editorial letters to see what crutch words appear with the greatest frequency.

The infographic that follows is designed as a pre-emptive editorial strike on your latest piece of writing.

Do any of these words or phrases look familiar to you? Run a Search for them on your document. You may be shocked to discover you’re leaning on worn-out crutches.  Mixing your prose into a colorful salad of words and phrases and actions provides readers with a more nourishing experience.


I want to know your crutch words. Tell me on Facebook.

avoid crutch words