We all have our ticks. Some conscious, others not. Have you ever noticed upon re-reading your first drafts you tend to use (often overuse) certain words or phrases? I am especially prone to beginning sentences with “But.” Sometimes a well-placed “but” can work wonders, but more often than not it’s just filler. BUT I also overuse “just” to the point of it sounding JUST plain weird. These words are easy to cut: “I overuse “just” to the point of it sounding weird.” Once you become familiar with your particular word habit it becomes second nature to eliminate them in later drafts. (“also” is a word I get carried away with, as I notice in the sentence above.)

BUT, (would “however” work better as an opener here?) one of my all time favorites is the parenthetical aside. I am still trying to figure out if this is a nasty habit that ought to be sliced from every first draft, or is it actually one that marks my individual writing style? I used to think I had to get rid of them all, but now I am beginning to embrace my love of parentheses. I use them in lieu of the comma (comma overuse bugs me), but mostly I use them as a little whisper into the reader’s ear that may add another layer to the meaning of my line. (Or is it merely a layer of contradictory cockiness I am adding?) I am sure I use them incorrectly at times, (and annoyingly). Like “buts,” “justs,” and “alsos,” they could be eliminated, but for now I have decided to embrace my predilection for parentheses and leave them be.

If you’re concerned about the correct usage of parenthetical asides (obviously I am not) you can always go here…

Perhaps I ought to write a book using as many asides as possible—this sounds like a thrill to me, even though it may end up being completely annoying to the reader. (However I’ll continue to cut the other nasty habits). BUT it ALSO may JUST be the cure I need to get over my obsession (I mean: “it may be the cure…”). Or perhaps it is the only way to figure out how to use them wisely (after all a well-placed parenthetical aside can work wonders, too!) It’s all style, no?

PS. I love the em dash (—) as well, but that’s another story.
(Oh, then there’s the ellipses…!)