When my Romanticism professor sat down to talk to me about my paper regarding Percy B. Shelley's play The Cenci, I assumed he was going to tell me that he understood where I was coming from, but did not agree with my paper.
Which he did.
But he also said this, "Are you aware that you have tics?"
At first I was startled. I was almost 100% sure that I did not have ticks. I had not been near any wooded areas or deer or even rolled around in my yard. There was the time that I had come perilously close to a deer at a petting zoo...but surely this was not close enough to get ticks.
I looked at him with a look of confusion and he started laughing.
"No, Kelly. Not ticks, TICS. You have a tic in your writing."
I was still confused and had to ask, "What do you mean by tic?"
(I still felt a little itchy due to the confusion from earlier)
He answered me in a rather flagrant, fun, well intended but rather confusing way. However, I was able to glean this definition from what he had told me:
Writing tics are the repeated words or phrases or actions the writer subconsciously relies on and uses too frequently. The writer won’t notice her tics, but readers will.
"Did you know that you use "is" all of the time in your paper? I underlined it on this page."
He handed me the page, and it was like being handed a death sentence via paper. There on the page, underlined in bright red, was the word "is"...at least 15 times.
15 times! In one page! Yikes!
He went on to tell me some other common tics (tics vary because they are unique of a writer):
That being said
To that end
most often (guilty as charged)
Apparently tics come naturally when you write, and the writer will not notice that he has written this particular word over and over.
Also most often writers will not notice this tic when editing their work, sometimes it takes another reader's eye to catch on to a tic.
Do not fear, it is possible to rid your writing of tics...well, at least in the editing process.
When you realize, or are told, that you have a tic. Try the following in terms of removing the tick from your writing:
Try reading your work out loud.
Speaking the words and hearing them will often highlight repetitious and unnecessary words.
If you think a word might be a tic, do a search for it in your paper and see how often it pops up. Then see if it’s necessary, if it can be deleted or if it should be replaced or rephrased so the repetition doesn’t create an echo.
Tics sound frightening, yes. But they really are more annoying than scary.
Tics happen when you are writing, oftentimes when you are writing about material that you are not familiar with. They are really just an annoying error that needs to be fixed during the editing process, and something that makes this process more challenging and fruitful.
Challenging because it can be hard to rephrase the sentences that holds your particular tic, fruitful because hey...you rephrased something differently! Could become a trend!
In my opinion the more you look at and study your writing the better it will become.
So, I have embraced my tic, which at first was uncomfortable and weird.
My tic forces me to proofread, something that I need to do more of anyway.
Maybe you should get one too?