In following up on a previous blog about passive voice, I'd like to mention a few other passive voice words and useless words to watch for besides "was" and "were". Keep an eye out for excessive use of the following words: is, are, felt, look, appear, and seem. Change these to active voice when possible.
Many words are expendable. These include qualifiers such as very, rather, quite, really, finally, even, and just. Do a search in your document for these. Eliminate them when possible.
Another word that is often expendable is "that," but check out the rules on this one because its usage can be confusing.
"And" and "but" are not necessary when used at the beginning of sentences, unless you need them for emphasis. Again, use this structure in moderation.
"Well," is another one that you will want to watch for at the beginning of dialogue. "Well, I guess I'll go." Unless you want to show that a person uses this word as part of their speech pattern, or you need it there for a specific emphasis, it can be removed.
Many adverbs (the "ly" words) can be removed, especially those used in dialog, such as "You poor child," he said pityingly. These will clutter your writing if used in excess.
As for adjectives, Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If you can ever can an adjective, kill it."
As with all fiction writing, you need to know the rules to break them.
And, finally, do as I say, not as I do!