The most over used word to me is the word 'that'. Not in "He went that a way", but rather when the word doesn't really add clarification to the sentence.
'She was so close to exhaustion that she was starting to get sick.'
She was so close to exhaustion she was starting to get sick.
The 'that' isn't truly necessary yet we litter our narrative and dialog with it.
A way to avoid its overuse can be accomplished substituting 'who' when what 'that' is referring to is a person. It is also more grammatically correct.
Other substitutions are 'it' and 'the' as is 'so'. There are probably others also. It doesn't take much time and only a little thought to find a way to either eliminate, substitute or rearrange the sentence to avoid using 'that'.
Another word often overused when writing in third person is the word 'had'. As with 'that' often the word had can simply be eliminated. Care must be taken to be sure your tense isn't changed either in including 'had' or eliminating it.
One caveat; If you are being paid by the word throw them in as often as you can.
Sophie Dawson writes Christian fiction. She lives with her husband and cat on a farm in western Illinois. Her Cottonwood Series novels have been Indie Book of the Day and Healing Love received first place in the genre in AuthorStand.com’s 2012 contest and a second in eLit 2012 contest.
Sophie blogs one a week on her website sophie-dawson.com as well as barndoor.net in edition to AuthorCulture.com.
She has recently released her fourth and fifth books, Leah’s Peace and Chasing Norie.