As I suggest on my Ocean's Edge page, often it's useful to search for certain key words in your work and try to replace them with more descriptive phrases. I single out the term 'something' as an example. But it's also important to try to pin down your pet words, your go-to words, your bosom buddies of diction.
Often, with your pet words, you don't realize you're using them so frequently until somebody points them out, and then alakazam! they fade into existence like an image from one of those Magic Eye pictures.
I've used the word 'schooner' 141 times.
Maybe I should change them all to 'sailboat?'
Either way, that's not what this post is about.
Today, while searching for a few of my own pet words, I strayed from the set course and searched for 'the's. Yes, the word 'the.'
A LOT came up. Obviously, I was expecting a lot, but as I hadn't really thought it through, the volume came as a bit of a surprise.
Let's see, in Systematic Rube a non-fiction piece of 101,503 words, there's 8264 'the's. That's like ... 8% of my words.
To do so, using Microsoft Word, select CTRL F to bring up the Find/ Replace and input the word you wish to find. Then, on the bottom, where it says Reading Highlight, select the arrow and choose Highlight All. It will then tell you how many times you've used that word in your piece.
I hummed, figuring that certainly this absurd number of 'the's were due to the free-flowing nature of the piece. I was just sprinkling words everywhere, a dash here, a jigger there. It was a crazy time. I can't be blamed for anything I may or may not have done. Surely, my more polished and uppity novel, Raw Flesh in the Rising would have much fewer.
In Raw Flesh in the Rising, at a 113,604 words, I find 10,396 instances of 'the.' That's just under 10% of my words. The 'the' quotient is high.
I know that I'm catching all the similar words like 'there' and 'their' and 'they're,' but it seems to me it's all the same family -- cousins and brothers, and that strange cousin, 'other.'
And, in truth, I don't know if it means anything. More than likely: Absolutely Not. I Am Just Rambling.
But, if anything, it does impart the rather large importance of such a little word. It's the opening act for most nouns, warming up the audience.
In general, it's fun to dig into a familiar piece and see it from another angle.