Students frequently make the mistake of using the same word frequently in their paper which frequently makes the writing sound rough. Did that sentence sound bad? As you’ve probably guessed, it’s because I used the same word three times in a single sentence.

This problem relates to a concept I call word frequency. Every word has a frequency with which it can be used in a given length of time. If you use it more often than that, a signal goes to your reader’s brain that says, “Hey, I just read this word one line ago.” This causes your reader to start thinking about your writing when they should be thinking about the amazing insight of your message.

While few students violate this rule to the extent of the opening sentence of this post, it’s not uncommon to see essays with sentences like, “I had a great week last week.” Although this sentence is grammatically correct, it sounds clunky because it uses the word “week” twice within a three-word space. A better wording would be, “Last week was great.” Now, you’re only using “week” once, and you’ve reduced the sentence by almost half.

So now, you understand the word frequency rule and can be sure never to violate this rule again. Better yet, you can read through articles about this rule and laugh at the author when they repeat the same word three times in their concluding paragraph.