According to my internet friend, Roger Carrier, when he finishes a manuscript, the first edit he performs is to track down pesky little words that we as writers never notice, but which only add empty padding. As Roger tells me,
“A search of your novel can be horrifying. The author of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” used “coffee” almost a hundred times! Did critics notice? Yes!”
Roger says, “Search for caps, lowercase, and general forms (“like” rather than “liked”) to pick up all forms):
Like (a great offender)
Only (a great offender!)
Whether (do not use in place of “if”)
Obvious (If it’s obvious, why say it?)
(Note “ly” words: Adverbs are often lazy substitutes for strong verbs)
Now here are a few that I, Lyn, use indescriminately and must check for in that first line-edit:
Almost – (unless it pins the meaning of the sentence)
Know that ‘loan’ is the noun and ‘lend’ is the verb.
Know that ‘whether’ does not mean ‘if’, it always implies whether or not…
And finally, because publishers and agents no longer want double spaces after a period, I type in a double space in the ‘find’ box, and a single space in the ‘replace’ box, just in case I forgot somewhere, I hit the ‘replace all’, and let ‘er whirl.
And dear Roger ~
I may also use ‘coffee’ too often. My protagonist, The English General, drinks a lot of coffee.