Friday, March 6, 2009

Questions about Manuscript Analyzer

This morning I received some excellent questions about my tool Manuscript Analyzer, so I thought I'd take the time to address those here. Here were the questions:

What are the definitions of the items you point out, such as frequent offender, common, etc,? Why are these items important? Are they good or bad styles? Who decided that these particular items should be pointed out?
So, without further ado, the answers:

If you look down under usage tips on this page (, it shows you the basic definitions. Frequent offenders are simply words that are commonly overused in manuscripts. The source for those are ones that I've noticed, as well as ones noted from such books as Don't Sabotage Your Submission, and various agent blogs (Nathan Bransford is an excellent one).

Common words are just small words like "a," "the," etc. Repetition of these is usually not an issue, which is why the tool lets you ignore them.

Phrases are cliches, mostly, but also redundancies ("and then", etc) which various agents have blogged about bothering them. All of the decisions about what to include were my own, however -- I wanted a tool like this to help me analyze my own manuscripts (making it available to others was a secondary occurrence).

These are all to be used as guidelines only, but if you are using any of the phrases, your wording is probably not as original as it could be. If you have a high repetition of any word that's not in the dictionary, you're probably overusing it. There's an early chapter in Don't Sabotage Your Submission that talks a lot about word repetition, but this tool helps you to automatically do the counting on a manuscript-wide basis.

Remember -- this tool doesn't do the analysis for you, it just flags common things for you and helps you do your own full analysis. Sometimes the words/phrases that a writer overuses are unique to a given manuscript; an editor pointed out that I had vastly overused the phrase "one-tined" in a recent ms of my own, and I doubt that has been a problem phrase for anyone else, ever. So the tool is meant to help you find things like that, too.