Repeated-Words-in-Draft Hunter

Superb program, thank you. Apologies if this question has been covered - I’ve searched and can’t find it.

When writing fiction one problem I often have, despite all attempts to police it, is repeat words (or variants of the same root - ‘looked’, ‘looking’, etc) uncomfortably close together. Usually in the editing the worst examples get caught, but still not infrequently they turn up within a few lines of each other, or more than once in a paragraph, etc. For a long time, my dream feature in a word processor has been a ‘Find Repeated Words (and Variants)’ function. In my inventy version, you could i) obviously factor out obvious necessities - ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘to’, etc; ii) have options to ignore words from a list like ‘said’ and similar; iii) add your own words to an ‘ignore’ list, so you could for eg list your characters’ names, which will come up a lot; iv) set the parameters for how close together is too close - a paragraph, 200 words, whatever. Then when you run the function it would do a ‘Find Repetition’ on that basis, and go through one by one with the option of changing it where it turns up (like a Find/Replace function).

I don’t know if this would be possible coding-wise, but it would make me intensely happy. Am I the only person? Any chance of this functionality turning up?

Sincere thanks.

Welcome, St.

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One thing you can do is use the Text Statistics feature, which has a word frequency table. This would at least give you an idea of which words you use the most in any one particular document - and you can use this in conjunction with Edit Scrivenings on the Draft folder to get word frequency for all of the documents in the draft.
Hope that helps. Thanks for the kind words.
All the best,

Hugh, KB, thank you for replies and suggestion. I’ll do that, it’ll help.
…I realise I’m not going to persuade you, and do NOT want to give the impression of complaining (still way the best software out there), but fwiw I hope you might one day reconsider putting this functionality in, if that’s feasible. The trouble with the text-statistics approach is that it’ll work very well if you have used a particular unusual word loads of times, but often the point about proximity is key. Say in one long section I’ve used the word ‘intricate’ twice. It might turn up low in the text-stats, so I might not notice it, because it’s not an unusual word, and twice isn’t that much, and if one’s at the start and the other at the end, no foul. But if those two instances are, say, a line and a half apart, they’ll stick out to the reader, and I’m human, I might miss them in editing (it’s happened before).
That’s why I pine for a ‘proximity’ variable to be taken in.
However! I’ll take these kind suggestions as a stopgap, and thank you kindly again for Scriv.

I’d suggest finding a good (human) beta reader. Among other things, they’ll be able to tell you whether a deliberate repetition “for effect” works or is just annoying. And they can catch things like repetitive or overly convoluted sentence structure, too.

Plus talking to people is more fun than talking to computers.


One of the most terrible sorts of texts is one that is obviously written with extensive help of a thesaurus.

It probably makes sense to use lots of synonyms when writing essays for school because students shall extend their vocabulary.

But when you are older and when you are taking your writing at least a bit serious you have to develop your own rhythm of repeating words and you have to trust in it. Plus, at the same time, you must know that you are part blind and therefore you will need, like Katherine said, at least one other human who reads your text before it goes public.

The speed and immediacy of the Internet are among its most treacherous features. Writing degenerates into the rush-to-finish which you see on express toll roads: drivers speeding toward the toll booths, braking and weaving at the last moment, lest another driver get into line ahead of them, as if there were a prize to the first one through.

I do it myself, of course. We all do – catch a wisp of an idea and race to post it before anyone else stumbles upon it. E-mail, blogs, the on-line forum, texting, these favor the speed-thinker and the speed-writer. Book publishing, for all its other ills, does at least force a delay between writing and publishing, a delay which usually incorporates editing and revising and – if nothing else – proofreading.

I long ago adopted a practice I learned from one of E B White’s early essays: once a manuscript is finished, I put it aside and ignore it for at least a week. While it ages, I work on something completely different. Then, after a week or a month, I go back to the ms. Previously invisible flaws leap from the page.

That is what I do with copy aimed at an editor. Here at L&L or on my blog, of course, I dash stuff off and hurl it into the ether willy-nilly, just like everyone else.

All that said, I agree with K and S. Nothing will find the glitches and gremlins better than a second pair of eyes.


So true! So true! :slight_smile:

I agree with all the comments. Pell-mell rush of writing is bad. Extra pairs of sympathetic-critical eyes are good. Proofreading is excellent. I’d be horrified to imply that what I’m proposing is a replacement for any of these things. I have very trusted close readers; I take my time on rereads and religiously put manuscripts aside before revisiting; I am not at all afraid of ‘appropriate’, deliberate repetition and could not agree more about thesaurusitis; and I’ve been lucky enough to work with astoundingly talented proofreaders…


…given that we’re all human, repetitions that I don’t like, didn’t intend and don’t stand by still, inevitably, creep through. Inevitably. And they bug me. And I’d like to get rid of them - not ‘of all repetition’, but of these bits of it. The comments that have been made could also be made about a spell- or grammar-checker - learn to take your time, have other pairs of eyes, look to your proofreader, etc - but some of us (me) still find them useful. We’d be an idiot to trust to them solely, of course, but they can be helpful. As one minor tool among many.

For which reasons and with thanks for the feedback, in an ideal world I would still like a ‘Repeated-Words-Hunter’.

The word frequency panel works pretty good for me, actually, in spotting repetitions that the eye might otherwise miss. Just sort by numeric frequency, scroll down to the bottom of the list and hunt through the ‘2s’ for conspicuous words. Since the frequency chart is document based and not project based (Edit Scrivenings aside), that is a pretty good indicator of keyword repetition. I’m all for the good old fashioned proofing process as well, but sometimes a little mechanical assistance can be of merit.

Just think about what an anti-repetition algorithm would have done to “A rose is a rose is a rose” …