About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"Very" And Other Words To Avoid In Writing

As I browsed Twitter this morning, I ran across somebody sharing an article about 15 Words You Need to Eliminate From Your Vocabulary to Sound Smarter, written by Jennie Haskamp.

The article makes valid points about the way we can improve our writing. I wanted to bring up a couple of the selections because I think we writers need to recognize them as the ones I suspect we often use in our first drafts. In fact, a couple of them are words I used more than I would like.

Very: It's not the first word Haskamp mentioned, but I mention it first because this is the one adverb writers should stop using. Only exception: Dialogue. "Very" is the one word in which I would say that there is no reason to use it other than dialogue. You can get your point across in other ways.

That: Here's a word I've tossed often into my first drafts, but upon review, realized I could eliminate and the sentence is fine. It's a good way to reduce your word count without taking away from your story.

Went: We use this word often in conversation. So I think it's OK to use it in dialogue because it's how people talk. But when we described action, we should be specific. He walked to school. She drove to the store. He boarded the bus on his way to work. She entered the movie theater. All examples of how we can write action without using "went" as we may do when we talk.

Really: Dialogue only. "Oh, really?" That's something people say all the time. Otherwise, it's a variant of very.

Literally: The list of instances to use this word would be short. Besides, why bother writing "I literally couldn't get out of bed" when you get the same point across by writing "I tried to get out of bed, but couldn't move a muscle."

Stuff and things: Either describe what they are or don't mention them. If it's "stuff," it probably isn't important to the story.

Irregardless: Let's review this one. The prefix "ir-" and the suffix "-less" each have a negative connotation. I suspect people use this word because they are thinking about the words that have the "ir-" prefix. Irresponsible. Irrational. Irrelevant. Those words are associated with negative or undesirable traits, so people may think "ir-" has to go in front of "regardless" if they use it in reference to the negative or undesirable. However, think of the words that have the "-less" suffix. Careless sounds like a bad thing, but flawless does not. As for the "ir-" prefix, what about "irresistible"? You use that to describe something you love, right? So it's possible for a word to have a prefix or suffix with a negative connotation, but describe a positive trait. All you have to remember when you describe something as "not" or "without," you only need one such prefix or one such suffix to describe it.

I'll throw in another one I try to avoid: Ended up. That was a word pairing I used often in early drafts of my self-published book Small Town Sports Beat. When I reviewed early drafts, I saw many instance in which I wrote "ended up." I rewrote most instances to eliminate that phrase and the sentences were fine. Since then, I've worked to cut down my usage of the phrase.

What are some of the words you think should be avoided when writing? What words do you find yourself using frequently in your writing that you believe you should reduce?

No comments:

Post a Comment