Grammar, Writing Craft

Scrub Your Story

I have a secret weapon. I store it inside my revision tool box. It’s called my Sophistication Scrubber. Really. That’s what I call it. 🙂 I pull out my Sophistication Scrubber when I’m revising my story for polish. More specifically, I use it when I want my manuscript to sound more sophisticated. Like a professional writer!

Here are a few of the problems that the Sophistication Scrubber can help me get rid of.

ing words. Also known as gerunds, phrases containing –ing words weaken your writing. 

               Ex. Pulling off her hat, she turned to face him. A stronger way to say this is: She pulled off her hat and turned to face him.

ing words and as phrases can often show an action that’s physically impossible because both actions can’t happen at the same time.

               Ex. Walking through the doorway, he took off his shoes. Instead try: He walked through the doorway and took off his shoes.

               Ex. As he whistled, he called over to his son. A better way would be: He whistled and then called over to his son.

–ly words. Also known as adverbs, -ly words weaken your writing. Use a stronger verb instead.

               Ex. She set down the mug angrily. Instead, try it this way: She slammed down the mug. (This way you’re showing not telling.)

Cliches. A cliché is a stereotyped expression, usually a common, overused thought that has lost all its originality. Avoid these in both dialogue and characterization because overuse can create a cartoon instead of a character.

               Ex. She was as quiet as a mouse. Instead try:She tiptoed through the kitchen, barely even breathing.

               Ex. The science teacher wore a lab coat and black glasses. Instead try:The science teacher wore shorts and a sweatshirt. 

Exclamation points.  Let your descriptions convey the emotion, not your punctuation.

               Ex. “Mom, I want some ice cream!” Instead: “Mom, I’ll clean the garage if you buy me some ice cream.”

               In both sentences the boy wants ice cream, but the 2nd sentence shows it without telling.

You can use the Sophistication Scrubber on your story too. Here’s how…

Take out a highlighter and mark all your –ing words, phrases with as, -ly words, clichés phrases, and exclamation points. Get rid of them and replace them with stronger words. You may find some are necessary, and you’d like to keep them. A few are fine. Just remember to keep them at a minimum. Your goal is to polish and scrub your story of less than sparkly words and phrases.

So that’s my secret weapon. I’m happy to share it with you! So, whether you’re 8 years- old or 38, give it a try. By the time your work is done, your words will sparkle and you’ll have a polished story!


Have a great week! I hope you can have some fun in this warm June weather. Take a walk. Ride your bike. Play tag. Then grab your sophistication scrubber and get to work!! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Scrub Your Story”

  1. I did the same thing, Katie with one of my first stories. I couldn’t believe how many I found! I guess it’s a common rookie mistake. We must speak using them or something!

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