Friday, April 19, 2013

Do You Have a Crutch Word?

I've been talking to my students this week about developing "voice" as a writer, which is basically just "the way you sound on paper."  One of our activities involved looking at our own writing and asking our friends etc. to describe how we speak in real life, then, comparing the two.

(Side note: The conversation made me think about this place. Blogging has been the single most important thing I have ever done to develop my voice as a writer. When I finally get around to writing that book one day, I will be a MUCH stronger writer because of the exercise of putting words on paper - figuratively - here every day.  If you want to write, WRITE.  That's the advice I give my students and what I practice in my own life.)

Anyway... I asked my students to describe my "voice" and they brought to my attention that I have two "crutch words" if you will.

Crutch words (according to this article from The Atlantic Wire back in September) are "those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason. Quite often, they do little to add meaning, though. Sometimes we even use them incorrectly. Almost always, we don't need them at all, which doesn't mean we won't persist in using them" (Doll 2012).

So, according to my students my crutch words/phrases in the classroom are:

"Hilarious" -- I really do use this A LOT.  Basically, if someone says something that is funny, I don't always laugh.  Instead, I just say "hilarious" in a very distinct tone.  It has kind-of become an addiction, and now I'm afraid that people think I'm a little bit rude with it.  I hope not.  (Apparently, some of my students have even taken to calling it a "Mrs. Chapman" when someone says "hilarious" in conversation.)

And, "Does that make sense?" -- I say this probably 100 times day, no exaggeration.  I use it pretty much at the end of every single "teaching" statement. Sometimes I pause for a response, sometimes I just roll right on with it. I must be very annoying to listen to.

This got me thinking about my crutch words in blogging.  I think one of them is "literally," and another is "awesome."  I also over use ellipses (which, by the way, did you know you are supposed to have a space between each period? Like this: . . .  I NEVER do that!).  I'm not sure what else, but I'm sure there are more.

Do you have a crutch word?  Are you aware of it?  It's kind-of an interesting activity to ask someone to describe the way you speak -- or even just to look back over your own writing for trends.

Just something to do this weekend; you know, to avoid house and yard work. ;)

P.S. In just about an hour, I am officially going to meet one of my very first & best blog friends, Ashley from The Pollock Potluck and her little man Luke. We are going to Chickfila (obviously) so we can drink unlimited Diet Coke and let our kids share germs play in the playland.  To say I am excited would be a major understatement - it is creepy really.  ;) Look for pictures to come on Instagram.


  1. This is such an interesting concept! I'm not sure what my own crutch words are. Not sure if I want to know, either. :) I did have a blog reader inform me one time that any time I use a big, exaggerated number (ie: I have 282598 pregnant friends right now), it almost ALWAYS starts with '28.' And she was totally right. I think it's just the natural order that my fingers bang on the number keys when I let them loose. But now I always notice that, haha.

  2. Kathryn uses "hilarious" all the time, too... must run in the family!

    I have so many crutch phrases, and I noticed even more when I started my student teaching, but of course none come to mind right now. I'm with you on overusing ellipses... and I know it's because I try to have my writing mimic the way I speak!

  3. I'm sure I have crutch words, but I'm not sure if I'd want to know them! So fascinating!

  4. My cousin says "Do you know what I mean?" ALL. THE. TIME.

    I wish I could meet you and Ashley at Chick-fil-A. But I would drink lemonade.

  5. I had a teacher in high school who said "and different things on here" ALL THE TIME. It usually didn't even make contextual sense.

  6. I do feel I have my own style of writing. I use . . . A lot but its because I think I said what I needed to say! Having said all that I'm a Brooklyn girl trying to get my words written, my blogs consistent and my love to do so come through!

    Have fun today and thank you!

  7. I use ellipses a ton too! I had no idea you were supposed to space them out though. Hmm!

    Have fun on your playdate!

  8. Oooh a Blate! . . .hope you have fun! Literally. ;)

  9. Haha! I do NOT put spaces! That doesn't look right!

    This is a great post. i'm not sure what my crutch words are. I work for a photographer, and i do his blogging & i have noticed it isn't that easy to NOT put certain words... I always automatically want to write beautiful or gorgeous (for a bride) & then have to think of something else!! LOL. I do say "you know what i mean?" often. I KNOW i have crutch words, just can't think of what they might be! Haha.

  10. Oh dear. I sure have lots of crutch words, mainly due to the size of my vocabulary I think. With English being my second/third language I often end up struggling to find the right expression and stick to what I always use in the end.
    As a teacher I often say (in Danish): "do you understand that?", "good" (whenever I am ready to start on a new topic), "we don't do that in here" - I'm mostly teaching 1st graders... :-)

  11. It is so funny how perceptive our students are! My first year of teaching, I had two students who lingered after a tutoring session and decided to mimic me. Luckily for them, I choose to believe that immitation is the most sincere form of flattery. They went through our daily routine, overused the word dilligently (which they confessed they had no clue of it's meaning), and even included their interpretation of my heels on the tile floor.

    This memory still makes me smile!


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