• Miles O'Neal

Writing 101 - Linguistic Tribbles Invading Your Writing?


Anyone familiar with the original Star Trek series is also familiar with tribbles. For anyone who isn't familiar with them, tribbles are a cute, fuzzy species that generate feelings of good will in humans. They are also far more prolific than rabbits, being born pregnant and having a short gestation cycle. Ubiquitous is a good reference for tribbles; if you have one, you have a lot.

Authors, it turns out, have to beware of linguistic tribbles. These are words or phrases we use too frequently (sometimes much too frequently). In Into Otherness, book III of the Dragon Lord Chronicles, my linguistic tribbles were "that", "so", and "but". My editor mercilessly fought me until I capitulated and excised the vast majority of each. Most of them made sense to me when I wrote the sentences, but most of them needed to go. The book is far better for it.

Most of us have tribbles in our communication, whether written, verbal, visual, musical, or otherwise. What are the words, images, musical phrases, and so forth that you use too often? What are you going to do about those? Live with them, or take it to the next level?

Thanks to Sally Hanan (a.k.a., Inksnatcher) for fighting the good fight and ridding my ship of these pestilent creatures.

Image copyright 1967, Paramount Pictures.

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