Here’s a post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: Stir your echoes
A writing echo is the close repetition of a word or phrase:
Monica charged into the room.
“So there you are!” she said.
Harvey said, “You don’t understand.”
The girl in the bed elbowed Harvey. “I think she does.”
“See you in court,” Monica said as she charged out the door.
The obvious echo here is charged. The words occur in close proximity. The echo clangs on the ear of the reader. It’s what I call one of those writing “speed bumps” that, even for a brief moment, can take the reader out of a smooth, fictional ride.
So don’t put them in.
But an echo is easy for a writer to write and overlook when editing his own manuscript. It should be something a good editor or reader catches for you.
Bell is SO RIGHT that this kind of repeated word is “easy for a writer to write.” He does not go far enough in his comment. Let me rephrase it more forcefully:
These echoes are AN ABSOLUTE PLAGUE UPON US.
Bell suggests doing a search to find words you tend to echo. Well, that’s a peachy idea, except that there is no specific word that I personally “tend to echo.” I mean, sure, maybe, but that isn’t the problem. If there were specific words, I could do a search for them as Bell says and there would be no problem.
The problem is with every dratted word in the dictionary. It’s like the back of my brain says, OH! Let’s describe this guy as “sauntering!” And then for the rest of that page, the back of my brain continues to consider “saunter” and variations the ideal word for everyone moving anywhere. Then I’m over it and don’t use “saunter” or “sauntering” again during that book.
This is incredibly hard to spot when revising.