10:19 — Atlanta
Good day! Yes, I am running a little late: a lovely phone call from my son and a Facebook farm that required harvesting. Last week I started through the list of words for writers to avoid. Many of the words pertain more to prose writing, and even speech, but a few creep into poetry. They are all words that need to be seen and heard less. You can see the original list here.
You will have noticed [I am sure], that the first two words we dealt with, really and actually, are adverbs, and you will remember that I have said to avoid adverbs unless they are necessary to the truth of what you are writing about. The three words I want to slide out of your vocabulary today, are all adverbs, words that qualify, or set boundaries, to the words they modify. All these words have lost meaning through overuse. As you read through this, let your ear hear the difference between sentences using the no no words, and the same sentences without the words.
The first word is very from the Latin for truthful [Really? Actually? Yes, very is a cousin.]. If we say He is very tall, we are being unspecific and very weakens the word tall. Why not: He is tall. Now if he is unusually tall, we can employ simile, or metaphor: He is a giant. Now, a giant is very tall!
Very is often used to modify a word that is an ultimate, such as: She is very unique. Unique, in and of itself, implies the very. She is very evil. How can someone be beyond evil? There is no beyond. She is evil can stand alone to convey the truth about the person. Having the very distracts from and weakens the strong, specific noun, evil.
A close relative to very is so, used in the same way: He is so handsome. The so is to add emphasis and in speech works better than in writing. Again, the plain, straightforward: He is handsome, can stand alone. Or, bring simile, or metaphor, into play: He is as handsome as George Clooney.
So is also used almost as an interjection: So, are you ready? Why not: Are you ready? So, shall we go? Try: Shall we go?
The final word for today is just used as an adverb, to mean only, or simply. Again, the word acts as a qualifier. I just want to go home, or, He just won’t listen, and, That is just what I mean. Now listen with your inner ear: I want to go home, He won’t listen, and, That is what I mean. The removal of just clarifies and strengthens what is said. Now, if you want to use it to add a nuance: He was just a stockboy until they promoted him, that’s intentional use, because the word implies something demeaning about being a stockboy.
While I am suggesting removing these words from your vocabulary, what I mean is that you should use the words, as you would with all word choices, deliberately and with knowledge of their effect on other words, on the writing as a whole, and on readers.
As we head into the Easter weekend, I shall have an abbreviated Friday Freeforall…okay, I will try. On Tuesday we will look at ballads. And, next Thursday we will do another group of words to avoid. I promise a break on the words after that, before finishing the list. If you know anyone who would enjoy this, do click on the buttons below. Happy writing.