creative writing

Avoiding Echoes in Your Writing


I’ve been reading a large volume of self-published books (mostly eBooks) lately, in an attempt to better myself as a writer. In case you haven’t heard it a thousand times yet, let me be one more voice in the crowd and say “reading makes you a better writer”.

That said, one of the most noticeable errors I keep running across is word repetition. My friend and fellow author Jeff Conolly refers to them as “echoes” (he uses hip author lingo) and they’re something I think all practicing authors need to be keenly aware of.

Echoes aren’t technically a grammatical error, but they are a matter of style that create redundancy and disrupt the flow of prose. Much like dialogue tags other than “said”, they tend to stick out like a sore thumb on the page and pull the reader out of the story to focus on the actual words themselves.

“Kristen yanked at the old doorknob until the doorknob eventually broke off.”

In the above example, that second instance of “doorknob” is unneeded, and does a disservice to the sentence.

“Kristen yanked at the old doorknob until it eventually broke off.”

Simply replacing the second “doorknob” with “it” makes the sentence flow more economically, and it is easier to read.

Another example of echoes I see fairly often is in the description of objects.

“The azure gem shone a brilliant hue of blue.”

Either “azure” or “blue” could be eliminated here, since they are synonyms.

“The azure gem shone brilliantly.” or “The gem shone a brilliant hue of blue.”

Then again, “hue of blue” sounds a little odd because it rhymes. So unless you’re writing a kid’s book, maybe “shade of blue” or just “blue” would work better.

Echoes are something I’ve attempted to train my eye to spot on re-writes and subsequent proof reading and editing passes. They are the type of minor foible that makes me prickly whenever I spot them, especially in my own writing.

I encourage anyone who notices echoes in their work to spend some time brushing up on the proper use of pronouns because it can really help take your writing to the next level technically.

Thanks for reading, and keep up the good work!

2 thoughts on “Avoiding Echoes in Your Writing”

  1. I wrote a blog entry about an experience I shared with another person. In trying to maintain full anonymity for the other person, I couldn’t use any pronouns that might reveal their identity. Reading through that piece, the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. It’s very redundant and clumsy. It was very challenging to write about them without revealing anything more than their age. On the other hand, it was amusing to read the comments left by readers. There were some assumptions made about the anonymous person that actually brought me to laughter.


  2. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    I can imagine that would be especially difficult to do, given the limited number of pronouns we generally have to work with. If I ever find myself in that situation, I use a trick I learned from others, which is applying a pseudonym to the subject you’re writing about.


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