Writing Tip #3 – Avoiding Worn Out Phrases – Warning: Adult Content #amwriting

Man Writing On A Parchment

I think I’ll have a little fun today. I was participating in some readers’ forums on various sites and ran across this thread where readers commented on trite, overused, and worn out phrases that authors use in novels. I had to laugh out loud at some of these, and I blushed because I’ve caught myself using a few of them. Where readers get bugged the most are with the terms used for anatomy in love scenes.  I will share some examples of their frustration thus the Adult Warning in the title.

When you are writing it is important to remember a few things. First, the era. If you write historicals then you will want the voices of your characters to be true to form.  You need to use the language of the era and act within the “norm” of the times. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a rebel character, but you wouldn’t want them to be a Duke in England in the 1700s and use the word “Gosh”. Study the vernacular of the times and be true to it.

Descriptions are another area that trip up writers.  Looking for ways to describe the fact that your character has brown eyes, brown hair, and a big nose can be challenging.  You want it to be descriptive without being boring but you can take it too far.  Here are some examples of descriptions that bug readers:

He whipped the eggs into a lemony froth  – Yuck – are eggs supposed to taste lemony? I think they were referring to color but wrong choice.

He spanned her waist with his hands – How skinny was she???

The burning sword of his manhood – Ouch!

His lips slanted over hers – Can lips slant?

Don’t worry, it will fit. –  Oh, boy, there’s an old one.

He purred. – What??? Is she with a man or a cat? Hmmm.

Okay, you get the idea. The other thing to be careful of in love scenes is using words that are worn out and tired.  Here are some examples:



velvety femininity

porcelain skin

shaft of love

smoldering smokey eyes 

Again, I think I’ve made my point. You want your writing to be fresh and real.

One of the best writers I’ve found who uses this imagery technique better than most is Dean Koontz. Yes, I know you wouldn’t expect this from a horror writer, but, boy, he is good. He can paint a picture with words like no one I’ve ever read.

A final suggestion would be to read your work out loud. If it sounds corny to you then it definitely will to your readers. Look at a revision. The good news is you can always edit!

Hope you enjoyed some of these phrases. Feel free to comment and add your own pet peeves!

Books by Kelly Abell     Cover Designs by Select-O-Grafix

Copyright 2014 by Kelly Abell

About Kelly Abell

I am a writer, blogger, and graphic artist. My aim for you is to utilize this blog to help you improve your writing skills, and to educate you on the publishing business. If you need help with writing, want to self-publish a book and need advice, or just want to kick a story idea around to see what works best, that's what I'm here for. As I gain knowledge from editors and publishers, I will share that knowledge with you. As writers we should always strive to improve our craft and grow. A day should not pass where you haven't learned or tried something new with your writing. Many thanks to my Night Owl Friend, Lea Ellen Borg for editing my posts! Best to you and all your characters and stories. Write on, my friends...Write on.
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5 Responses to Writing Tip #3 – Avoiding Worn Out Phrases – Warning: Adult Content #amwriting

  1. JKW says:

    Cliches are one of my pet peeves, I just roll my eyes. The other really big pet peeve is referring to a TV series. Good grief, I don’t watch THAT much TV to even understand what the author meant. This is one of my all time favorite mystery writers and who is up there at the top. Never has this author made a mistake like that. I was absolutely floored. Thanks so much for your tips. Janet


    • Kelly Abell says:

      JKW, I hadn’t thought about the TV series thing, but that’s a good point. Mentioning anything from the “real” world can not only confuse your reader, but sometimes date your writing.


  2. Great post. Another thing to watch for are body parts taking on a life of their own. “His hands roamed her body.” Pretty funny when you think about it. 🙂


  3. authorcjl says:

    One that always gets me is “his throbbing manhood.” Sorry, but if I see something throbbing in bed with me, my first instinct is to whack it with a hammer!


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