Story Stuff: J Is For Just (And Other Crutch Words)

For today’s post in the A-Z series, we’re taking a step back from the guts of story and looking at something that gets in the way: crutch words.


I’m listing them under J for Just because “just” is one of my crutch words, AKA those words we authors get too comfortable with and overuse. They can be a problem because the reader notices them and that pulls them out of the story.

We don’t want to pull readers out of the story. So identifying crutch words and removing them is super important.

Different authors have different crutch words, and if they’re like me, old ones are eliminated only for new ones to take their place. As a new writer, I overused “moment”. In an early draft of Drake and the Fliers, I had too many characters chuckling (a result of trying to eliminate my “laugh” crutch).

Retro GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

So how do you identify your crutch words? Two words: critique partners.

CPs are writers, and writers are aware of crutch words and are adept at finding them, even as we inadvertently develop new ones. My CPs found the chuckle crutch in Drake, and they always catch my “just” overuse. That one just (ha!) won’t go away.

As I was searching for pics on this topic, I discovered something fun: a word cloud generator. I used it to create a cloud of some of my past crutch words.

wordcloud (1)


I’m sure my CPs reading this will remind me of any I’ve forgotten. And since we’re all in this together, consider this question and answer in the comments: What are/have been your crutch words?

Or for extra fun, click that word cloud link and create your own crutch word cloud! You can post it on your own blog or on another site like Twitter and share the link in the comments.


21 thoughts on “Story Stuff: J Is For Just (And Other Crutch Words)

  1. I’ve got a number of “crutch” words that I’ll find when I read back over whatever I’ve written. I try to remove as many as makes sense and replace them with something more appropriate or I just leave them out entirely. I attempt not to repeat words in the same paragraph or even sentence if at all possible and it’s almost always possible to do.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Maybe I’ll put together your list next time I’m screening a MS for you, the way I do for myself.

    I literally put my list of overused words at the front of the document and when I’m finished writing, I do a search for each known crutch word, putting the number of occurrences next to each word on the list, and adding to the list as my CPs point out another crutch word.

    It’s a looooong list.

    And after taking out a lot – a LOT – of the crutch words through a very tedious operation of search and replace, we generate new ones. But after THAT, we are determined NEVER to use those words again.

    Which, again, causes OTHER words to now move forward on the overused word list. (Too many smiles becomes too many grins, etc.)

    The nice thing is, you can have a list of synonyms at the ready and with very little thought (because tedious task of crutch word removal = brain dead), get the crutch words out and probably not create a new overused word.


    When I get a system that works and doesn’t make me want to connect electrodes to my keyboard in such as to deliver an electric shock every time I start typing S-M-I-L… I’ll let you know.

    BTW, J is for Junk Food, as in: eat a lot of it because you’re a writer and inspiration comes from it. Pretty sure that’s true.

    Also, I is for Internet, as in: where we go to learn about stuff because we don’t leave the house.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard you can do a word search for a word and it will tell you how many times it appears in your document and highlight it as well. y good friend word. sigh.
    I sigh, bob my head, laugh, grin, chortle (don’t ask – it was one character and I swear I’ll never do it again), moment, as though….

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s just kind of funny that I just used the word “just” in my J entry title just now.

    I did it deliberately because it was a J word, but it’s interesting that you just wrote an article about the crutch word “just”! I added an honourable mention at the bottom with a link to this article. I just hope you don’t mind.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: J is Just Juxtaposition | #AtoZChallenge | Beyond the Precipice

      • For lack of other words, I use exhaled, since it’s not always a sigh. It’s that exasperated exhale. I love writing tags in the form of action, but for some actions, I don’t have enough words. (I was going to write “I just don’t have enough words” and caught it–something I’ve taught myself to do when writing as well.)

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