What’s another way to say… ?

I frequently run against a scene where I repeat a word over and over again. I try very hard not to do this, and Wendy is great a catching times when I did without realizing it. In fact, it drives me bananas when I find it in books, or worse, song lyrics.

Sometimes, you have to get really creative to eliminate the number of times a word is repeated, or just a different way to convey the same concept. Here are some of the tricks I use. This is a fairly generic/easy example from a recent editing session with Wendy.
Original Excerpt:
She’d spent the last three days inoculating all of their stock against Blackleg. Luke had helped the first two days, but had to leave for an emergency birth at another ranch.
Holly had spent the entire day today wrapping up the rest of the stock on her own. With help from the ranch hands, of course. Still, it’ had taken her the better part of the day. Luckily no other calves had shown any sign of the disease since they started.
The hands had taken Holly out for a thank you drink – or couple of rounds of drinks – at the closest local bar. They’d been a hoot, and Holly had enjoyed her evening. She’d only had one beer, very early on, but the combination of three long days, the alcohol, and a late night all combined to make her very sleepy.
***
As you can see, I repeat the word “day” (or some varition thereof) 6 times in 3 paragraphs. Bad writing! When you run across this, there are a few things you can try to eliminate the repetition.
Eliminate
The first thing I do is go through and figure out which instances I can eliminate without losing the gist of the sentence. That second instance is a good spot. If I just remove the word “day” it’s still obvious that Luke worked two days with her since three days was mentioned so recently.
Substitute
See where you can substitute a different word that means the same thing. Not a ton of great examples in this one. But the “day today” combo could be replaced by hours instead.
Re-Phrase
Use a different phrase, or re-write the sentence. For example “three long days” at the end could be reworded into “the hard work” – which has nothing to do with days, but the meaning still comes across (possibly better).
***
With some easy eliminating, substituting, and rephrasing, here’s how the paragraph ended up. No more repetition of the word “days” !!!
Edited Excerpt:
She’d spent the last three days inoculating all of their stock against Blackleg. Luke had helped the first two, but had to leave for an emergency birth at another ranch late last night.
Holly wrapped up the rest of the stock on her own. With help from the ranch hands, of course. Still, it’ had taken her until late this afternoon to finish. Luckily no other calves had shown any sign of the disease since they started.
The hands had taken Holly out for a thank you drink – or couple of rounds of drinks – at the closest local bar. They’d been a hoot, and Holly had enjoyed her evening. She’d only had one beer, very early on, but the combination of grueling work, the alcohol, and a late night all combined to make her very sleepy.

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