I have had about two beta-readers who had pet peeves with respect to the use of certain words in fiction. I was wondering if these pet peeves are valid. For instance, is the use of the word, "then," considered annoying for some readers? I have looked and edited my manuscripts and have concluded that I was not in anyway excessive on my use of this word. I just don't understand why some readers still find annoying. It is a very useful word. But anyway, what is considered a pet peeve when it comes to writing?

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    I don't worry about anyone's pet peeves in writing. A pet peeve, by definition, only matters to the person for whom it is a pet peeve. For everyone else, it won't matter.
    – levininja
    Feb 15, 2020 at 0:12
  • @levininja Thanks, pal for the response. Yeah, sometimes pet peeves really can be a hindrance when getting feedback. The person giving feedback needs to be objective. Feb 15, 2020 at 1:12
  • I have always hated Tom Swifties Feb 15, 2020 at 11:21

2 Answers 2


The word "then" is a common transition word that elementary schoolers learn right off the bat, right? I get why some might be annoyed by it - it's kind of in the same category as starting a sentence with "But" or "And" or "Because" in that sense. When you get good enough, you can break the rules of writing on purpose and it sounds just fine (not necessarily speaking from personal experience - but I've read it plenty). I think that word can work just fine, but if a person writes something like-

"Caleb left his house. Then he jogged to the bus stop because he was late. Then the bus pulled up about a minute later. He climbed on board and then sat down. Then it took off."

-then it's repetitive and the flow is stunted. Now that's excessive, but hopefully you get the sentiment.

Some writing taboo things I've heard:

When you tell instead of show (explicitly state something instead of illustrating it so the reader can infer, implying your readers are stupid)
Sentence structure lacks variety (like if every sentence is short, or every sentence is long, or they sound the same)
Always using the dialogue tag "said"/never using that tag (because "said" is an invisible tag, but if it's always there it becomes very visible)
Too many curse words (that one is from someone I know)
Using cliches (one that I've heard from another person I know - "I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding")

IMO, Levininja makes a good point when she says that pet peeves are only applicable to the specific person who has them. You can't really avoid everyone's pet peeve. Just go with your style and what sounds good to you, and you'll attract an audience that suits it. Have fun!

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    Thank you, Tasch. Your comments really brought joy to my heart. Feb 15, 2020 at 13:25
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    You comment on my comments really brought joy to my heart xD. Have a great day
    – Tasch
    Feb 15, 2020 at 21:48

I try to look at this kind of feedback the same way I listen to other people express their style or taste.

Some people like chocolate more than strawberry, and others are the other way round. Neither is valid or invalid, its just a personal preference.

When some one gives my feedback on my writing, and its dominated with their personal preferences - I use oxford commas and some of my critique groups hate it — so I discount the feedback. For some reasons, and I hesitate to speculate why, some people really think a lot of their littlest inclinations.

But, that said, it is very important to differentiate between their expression of person taste v. a poorly expressed observation about readability. I’ve observed that sometimes critique groups are unable to express why a phrase or sentence or paragraph bothered them. Some will just say, I think this needs work, but I can’t explain why. And, others, because of their personal natures, need to have a reason to behind every observation. So, it becomes a pet-peeve.

So long and short, consider the source. If they motivated by ego then feel free to ignore it. If they are communicating a problem with readability then ask questions about specific sentences to uncover what is the real problem is.

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    Thanks for the comment. For the feedback I've gotten with those pet peeves, I have been informed that the person, my beta-readers, doesn't like them in anybody's book. There was one person though, another beta-reader, who was just railing on my manuscript just because. I therefore ignored their advice. Feb 16, 2020 at 23:31

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