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What’s Your Writing Tic?

Click to access digital version
Click to access digital version

I saw this article, titled What annoys authors about their own writing?, written by Mary Schmich in last Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.  I cut it out immediately.  (Click here to access the digital version.)  When I got to work on Monday, I discovered a colleague had also put a copy of the article in my mailbox.  I knew then I was destined to write about it.

In her column, Mary Schmich discusses habits, or tics, that writers wish they could change.  Mary’s tic is the use of colons.  Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn has a habit of using the word ‘literally.’ Novelist Nami Mun admits to the overuse of food metaphors in her writing.  The author of the article goes on to explain that another way of looking at tics is to think of as them as writing style, or voice.

The article got me thinking, “What’s my writing tic?”  So, I looked back through my Slice of Life Stories with a critical eye.  Here’s what I found:

In this one short Slice of Life Story, I invoked the Rule of Three on four separate occasions.

from http://murphyslawblog.wordpress.com
from http://murphyslawblog.wordpress.com

#1: She can be hesitant to try new things, hesitant to make a mistake, hesitant to take a risk.
#2: Being brave might mean trying a new food, or making a new friend, or drawing a difficult picture, or loosening the training wheels on her bike.
#3:  For a long while, she watched in solitude as her fearless peers ran and played and climbed the play structures.
#4: Higher and higher and higher she climbed.

Yes, I would call that a tic.

While rereading my blog posts, I also noticed how I tend to use a cyclical structure a lot.  And I do mean A LOT.  I will introduce an idea and circle back to that same idea, but in a different way.  I did it in this post:

from https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com
from https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

I also did it here and here and here and here and here…well, you get the idea.

Finally, I saw lots of evidence that I am the undisputed queen of the repeating word or phrase.  Look at this excerpt from one of my Slice of Life stories:

from http://murphyslawblog.wordpress.com
from http://murphyslawblog.wordpress.com

It was interesting to identify my tics.  It was definitely an exercise in reflection.  I decided my tics are part of who I am as a writer. The tics are what gives my writing voice and style.  I wouldn’t get rid of them even if I could.

What are your tics as a writer?  Please share in the comment section below.

Categories

voice, writers

Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

16 thoughts on “What’s Your Writing Tic? Leave a comment

  1. One of my tics is I tend to use the ellipse a lot…which is funny to me because I think about my voice and when close friends have talked to me that say I’m a reflective thinker. I think I show that in my writing when I add the ellipse…I am thinking-taking a long pause and really thinking about what I is written. I didn’t actually notice and note for evidence within my writing because I’m short on time! I do find it interesting though that you can learn a lot through revisiting your writing to see patterns and trends. Thanks for sharing this idea.

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  2. Dana,
    I loved this topic and couldn’t wait to “explore my tics” and surprise, surprise, surprise! Over use of ” ” words (sometimes tongue in cheek, !!!, . . . , Q and A format and the dreaded box and bullets!

    I’m going to check this out with some of my teachers!

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  3. Ooh! I am inspired this to go back to old stories, blog posts, notebook entries to see what my tics are! I know I love to use parenthetical phrases (can’t resist using one here). I’m also a big overuser of made up names for things involving the use of dashes, as in, “I’m going to reread my writing for made-up-names-of-things.”

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  4. Wow, what a great post. I LOVE the word “looked!” When I’ve finished writing my manuscript I do a search for certain words that I love–look is one of many. I also tend to write short sentences in a “list” formation–so I’ve been told by my critique partners. In one of my novels it was okay because my character didn’t know English really well, but typically I need to vary my sentence lengths. This post is a great reminder that no writing is perfect and we all need to work on something–always!

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  5. As I was reading this post I was thinking, DO NOT GET RID OF YOUR TICS, DANA! Your tics are what make your writing undeniably yours. I’m glad you came to that conclusion by the end of this piece too!

    I’ve noticed that I’m very literal (my critique partner helped me see this) when I write fiction. I feel this great need to explain things and to make sure everything is just-so. I have to stop doing that since it’s holding me back as a writer. At least I know what I need to work on, right? (BTW: This was discovered in the past week.)

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  6. I’m way too wordy. Also, I structure sentences how I speak – I’m from Louisiana. That’s all nice and folksy but it can be confusing for my readers.

    I have recently discovered that I love 3’s: e.g. 3 examples of something, 3 increasing/decreasing comparisons, or 3 rhyming patterns. Cripes!

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  7. Oh I love this post!! Without looking I can tell you one of my tics is excessive use of the ellipsis. Also, I tend to often use sentence fragments for emphasis. I’m going to look for more. I LOVE this!! I’m going to read this article and think about this some more. Thanks!

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    • I also love the idea of “what are your writing tics?” Do you think our more sophisticated fifth grade writers would be able to reflect in this way? Great post

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      • Mona, I thought about sharing this article with kids, too. I was thinking our junior high kids, but I’d be curious if 5th graders could reflect on their tics, also! Let me know if you try it with kids.

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