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Overused Words

General information

All creative writers know that they should avoid repetitions and clichés if they want their texts to be read with any interest or pleasure. Overused words are simply boring and will invariably put readers off, whether these "tired" words belong to the common stock of catch phrases used by most people, or to the writer's own idiosyncratic style. Obviously, overuse of any kind will be more noticeable if it occurs within short portions of text.

This is when the Atlantis "Overused words" feature comes in handy. It will show detailed statistics about repetitions and word frequency. This will tell you where words need to be replaced with synonyms, or whole paragraphs reworked.

The Atlantis "Overused words" feature is accessed through the Tools | Overused Words... menu command. This command displays the "Overused Words" dialog with three tabs – "Repetitions", "Frequencies", and "Overlong Sentences".

Repetitions

You will use this tab to scan your document for repetitions of words or phrases.

Atlantis will consider that two words or phrases make a repetition when they are identical and are separated by less words than the amount specified as the minimal distance allowed between repeats. In other words, Atlantis will ignore repetitions if the two instances are separated by at least the specified number of words:

Let's take the previous screen capture as an example. Atlantis was instructed to ignore repetitions if they are separated by at least 15 words. But this also means that any two identical words or phrases separated by less than 15 words will be reported by Atlantis as a repetition. In the following text, Atlantis would report the two occurrences of "banks" as a repetition:

This is because these repeats are separated by only 6 words. They do not respect the specified "safe" distance of 15 words. They are considered to be "too close" to each other:

If there had been 15 or more words between these two instances of the word "banks", Atlantis would have assumed that they were not a repetition.

The "Ignore repetitions separated by at least NN words" setting allows you to control how close two identical words or phrases have to be to each other to be treated as a repetition. If you choose a smaller separating number, fewer pairs will be reported as a repetition (the two words will have to be very close to each other to be reported as repeats). On the other hand, a larger number will cause more words to be reported as a repetition (the two words could be located at some distance from each other).


Repetitions of completely identical words obviously create redundancy. But so will repeats of words whose spelling is different but are pronounced in the same way (homophones). The same can be said of prefixed or suffixed variants of related words (inflected or derivative forms). All such repeats can be detected by Atlantis. Appropriate options are available on the same tab:

When "Report inflected forms" is checked, Atlantis will report repetitions of the same words, but also repetitions of inflected forms (or derivatives) of these same words. For example, occurrences of "designer" and "redesigned", "spelling" and "misspelt", "begun" and "beginner", etc will be reported as repetitions if they are found "too close" to each other.

When "Report homophones" is checked, Atlantis will report repetitions of words that are pronounced in the same way but differ in meaning and are spelt slightly differently. For example, Atlantis will report instances of "be" and "bee", "fisher" and "fissure", "I" and "eye", etc if they occur too close to each other.

The "Custom..." buttons next to these two options allow you to specify custom groups of inflected forms or homophones.

Note that the present version of Atlantis has built-in support only for inflected forms & homophones of the English language. You'll have to add custom inflected forms and homophones yourself manually for other languages than English.


Scanning a document for repetitions is done by clicking the "Next" (or "Previous") button.

The "Next" button searches the document text for repetitions in the forward direction starting at the current caret position. The "Previous" button searches in the backward direction. When found, pairs of repeated words or phrases get highlighted in the document window:

You can do three things with a reported repetition:

  1. You can eliminate the repetition by reworking the corresponding sentences. This can be done by rephrasing them, or by adding more text between the repeated words, or by replacing one of the repeated words with a synonym. You can look up and replace words with synonyms by right-clicking the words in the document window and launching the Thesaurus command from the Atlantis context menu.
  2. You can ignore the repetition if you believe that it is not a problem. Simply click the "Next" or "Previous" button in the dialog.
  3. Finally, you can instruct Atlantis to never report a particular pair of words. For this click the "Always Ignore" button and Atlantis will add the currently highlighted pair of repeated words to its exclusion list. This exclusion list can be edited. Click the "Words to Ignore..." button to open the dedicated dialog.

When your search for word repetitions is finished, use the "Close" button to dismiss the "Overused Words" dialog.

Frequencies

The second tab of the "Overused Words" dialog provides writers with general information about word usage in a document. It lists all the words used in a document along with their frequencies (how many times these words are encountered in the document). It also can list phrases used in a document twice or more.

If you select an item in the list of reported words and phrases, you will be able to navigate among the occurrences of the corresponding words in the document window. Simply click the "Next Occurrence" (or "Previous Occurrence") button:

If you want Atlantis to select all document occurrences of the items currently highlighted in the report list, click the "Select all occurrences" button.

Atlantis will highlight all the related occurrences as a multiple selection in the document window. When all occurrences are selected, you can close the "Overused Words" dialog, and navigate among the various occurrences using the "Show more selections" button Button image on the Atlantis toolbars.

You can also format all the selected words in any suitable way (underline, font color, special style, etc) so that you can deal with them at a later time.


You might want to entirely exclude some words or phrases from the texts that you write. For example, you might have your own "idiosyncratic" set of "tired" words or phrases. If you believe that these "tired" words reduce the quality of your texts, you could add them to the list of unwanted words & phrases so that Atlantis can warn you about their use. There are two ways to do this.

First, you can click the dedicated "Unwanted Words & Phrases..." button. A dialog will pop up, allowing you to add any unwanted words manually.

However there is a simpler way to deal with unwanted words and phrases. When you encounter an unwanted word or phrase within the list reported by Atlantis, you can click that unwanted item, then the "+" button next to the "Unwanted Words & Phrases..." button:

This will automatically add the currently highlighted item to your custom list of unwanted words & phrases. Any such unwanted word or phrase is displayed by Atlantis in red so that unwanted items are easy to spot within the complete list of reported words:

Noticing unwanted items is even easier when the "Bring unwanted words to top" option is checked at the top of the "Frequencies" tab. When this option is checked, all the retrieved unwanted items always appear at the top of the wordlist:

Removing items from the unwanted list is also easy. You can do so by clicking the "Unwanted Words & Phrases..." button and using the "Delete" button in the pop-up dialog. But you can also simply select a reported unwanted word or phrase directly in the "Overused Words" dialog, then click the "–" (minus) button to the right of the "Unwanted Words & Phrases..." button:


At the top of the "Frequencies" tab, more options allow you to control how words and phrases are displayed:

 

  • You can choose how words get sorted with the "Sort in alphabetical order" and "Sort by frequency" buttons:
     
  • You can ask Atlantis to report all inflected forms (derivatives) of the same word as one list item, i.e. regroup them on the same line. For this check the dedicated option:
     

     
    On the other hand, inflected forms of the same word are reported separately if you uncheck this same option:
     
  • You can ask Atlantis to report numerals by checking the corresponding option:
     
  • The "Frequencies" tab picks up all single words. But when the "Report phrases" option is checked at the top of the "Frequencies" tab, phrases are also reported:
     


    An important note. Phrases are reported only if they occur at least twice in the document. But phrases included in the unwanted list are always reported, even when they occur only once.
     


Now you might want to export the entire list of retrieved words & phrases (including their frequencies) in a plain text format. This is easily done. Simply right-click the reported wordlist, and use the "Send to Clipboard" command that is displayed:

The entire wordlist will be sent to the Windows clipboard. You can then paste it into any document in Atlantis to examine it at a later time.

Overlong sentences

On the third tab, you can scan the active document for overlong sentences:

Use the "Sentences of at least XX words are overlong" box to specify how long sentences need to be for Atlantis to report them as overlong.

The "Next" button searches the document text for overlong sentences in the forward direction starting at the current caret position. The "Previous" button searches in the backward direction. When found, overlong sentences get highlighted in the document window.

See also...