What Is Your Nemesis Word?

The elderly writing sage removed his black Stetson, revealing a wave of thick, white hair matching his handlebar mustache bordering his lips as he spoke. His delivery was gentle, although his voice was gruff. “Do you know what your nemesis word is?”

A hand popped up from one of the conference attendees. “Sir?”


“What is a nemesis word?”

“A word that you tend to use too much. One of mine used to be just. I would use it all the time. Just this. Just that. Just about. Just just…you get the picture.”

What is your nemesis word?


Yes, you may have more than one. It’s your go-to word that you use without thinking as you tell your story, serving as your writing Waterloo.

For example, at a recent reading of my story draft at my critique group, one of the members of the group counted my using “was” nine times in the opening two paragraphs. “Was” is a nice word that doesn’t do much for the reader. It’s not an action word. It’s a passive word resulting in passive writing. Passive writing isn’t readable, let alone marketable. So, I had to sweat over my draft (undoubtedly the greatest story ever written) and find a better way to say it.


Your nemesis word may change. As you uncover and conquer one, you will undoubtedly discover a word that takes its place. You will have to be diligent in ferreting your waterloo word out, rescuing your writing from ruin. That equals more work for you, the writer. That is why writing is called a craft.

All craft requires work; unless you’re not serious about getting any better at it.

Peace, love, and happy writing!


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