Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

More "fuzzy" words…

…and not in a good way.

“very”
“almost”
“about”

I found my copy of “The Ten Percent Solution,” which goes (in my thinking) a bit overboard in its pursuit of fuzzy words, but which is a useful guide, and reminded me of the above. My thoughts on the above words:

VERY. I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t use this one too much in the manuscript. I check for it while writing now, because I’m aware of it. I leave it in when people are speaking, because it’s more a spoken modifier than a written one–we want to convey an amplification of something in speech. In writing, there’s almost always a better way to do it, unless there’s a rhythm you’re going for. For example, “Something was very, very wrong” doesn’t have the same ring as, “Something was wrong.” But you could say, “Something was drastically wrong.”

ALMOST. I use this one a lot. Almost too much. Here’s an example: “a faint scent that disappeared almost as soon as she noticed it.” That’s a colloquialism; wouldn’t it be better as, “a faint scent that disappeared as soon as she noticed it”? What does “almost” do there except take up space?

ABOUT. This isn’t in the sense of “I asked her about the movie,” but in the sense of, “it was about three feet long.” Other ones like this I use a lot: “a few,” “a couple,” “some.”

The joys of editing! These little things don’t make a huge difference in the individual cases, but I do think the overall cumulative effect makes your prose sharper and easier to read.

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One response to “More "fuzzy" words…

  1. Rikoshi September 1, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    One of the things I know I overuse (and which I catch myself using and still sometimes don’t stop myself) is “a bit.” I seem to stick it everywhere, and it’s one of those things that I’m definitely going to be doing a search for once I’m finished with my current rewrite.

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