Mario’s Tips on Writing I: Words to Watch Out For

I belong to a writers’ group. One of members is a fellow named Mario.  Mario works as a manager in the transportation sector, and is a published short-story author.  However, in my humble opinion, Mario was really born to edit.

The man is fantastic at it.  There are times where the word count on his notes on a chapter I have submitted have rivaled that of the submission itself.  He will re-arrange sentences and paragraphs, flag over used words, point out errors in diction, grammar, plotting, characterization and more (and supply suggestions on how to fix them).


Chapter 28 — Needs Work

In short he often puts more ink on my pages than I do.

The man is a treasure, and as soon as I can get him tweeting and blogging I will.

A little while ago I asked him to collate all of his writing suggestions.  He has given me permission to share them with the rest of you. Now, I realize that there is pallet-loads of stuff on the internet regarding rules of writing, but I think Mario has captured a lot of really good advice in a short, pithy format.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but they’ve been very helpful to me as my writing has improved.  Your mileage may vary.  🙂

I’ll post them in chunks, and here is the first:

Mario says:

Words to watch out for:

But, Was, Look, Like, Then, Now, Just, Only, As If, As Though, And Then, But Then, Seem or Seemingly, Smile, Grin, Turn, Gaze, Stare, Almost, Nearly, Very, Really

Personally, I think these words can dilute a story. But go ahead and use them, because you can’t write a story without them, just minimize them, as you would any word or style. Underuse them and you’re wordy, overuse them and you’re trite; I always try to strike a balance.


As always, try not to overuse. Rule of thumb for a 5000-6000 word short story is don’t use more than six for verb phrases (Mario said warningly), don’t use them at all in a verb phrase if you don’t have to (Mario warned), and never use them awkwardly (Mario said conspiratorially). Otherwise, they’re okay if sprinkled liberally in paragraphs.

So there you go. Short and to the point.

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