Thursday Thoughts: The Last of Those Pesky Words

09 Jun

8:12 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello dear readers. Here we go with the last of the words our writing/speaking vocabulary can do without. The last group of words fall into the overused category.

Suddenly comes from the Latin for taking by surprise, unexpected, without warning. What happens as soon as you read the word? That’s right: you know something is going to happen. The word itself removes the unexpectedness. Rather than warn a reader, we need to learn to make what happens sudden, to establish a mood of without warning so the readers is surprised, not forewarned..

When can you use it? Like many of the previous words we have talked about, if you establish a situation and need to qualify it, then you can use the word. He walked along the street before making a sudden turn is alright.  You didn’t warn the reader. But: He walked along the street looking into shop windows, before veering into a side street and breaking into a run, is even better. You can use sudden, but you can also set up the unexpectedness through action and reaction. Not: The door opened suddenly, scaring her. But: She jumped when the door swung open.

Then is an adverb that qualifies verbs with time. When? Then. And that’s not a problem. The problem arises when used as a transition: He picked up a book. Then he moved to the chair …exposition …exposition …exposition …Then he left the room. Instead: He picked up a book and moved to the chair. After reading a chapter he rose and left the room. The action implies first he does x and then he does y.

There is nothing wrong with the word that other than you don’t need it 96% of the time you use it. When you find yourself using that, try the line, phrase, or sentence without it. You will be surprised.

In poetry and flash fiction where every word counts, we can’t afford to have words that do nothing other than take up space. Is it okay to use the words sometimes? Yes, if you make a deliberate choice and have a reason for the space they take. If the word has a job, the word has a place.

And that is it…for now. Next week I shall suggest some bookmarkable sites to do with language. They range from straightforward lists to short discussions.

Before I sign off, does anyone have a topic they want me to talk about? My Thursday Thoughts can cover anything to do with the writing of poetry, or with language. I am happy to tackle anything. At any time, if you have something, email me or leave a comment. I will see what I can do.

I will see you tomorrow for Friday’s roundup of prompts, I hope. We take off for our summer vacation, so I will be writing the post tonight and asking the calendar to post. Not having done this before and being technologically challenged, let’s all keep our fingers crossed. Tuesday, we will look into a form called the etheree. Not heard of it? Neither had I, but it looks like fun and I shall work on one over the weekend. And, next Thursday we will look at sites on language usage.

If you have question, please ask. Suggestions welcome. And, if you know anyone who would enjoy this, click on the buttons below.

Happy writing.


Posted by on 09/06/2011 in poetry, writing


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4 responses to “Thursday Thoughts: The Last of Those Pesky Words

  1. wordsbypsayers

    09/06/2011 at 3:02 pm

    Margo, guilty of the “that” word. I seem to use it a lot. Once I start editing a piece. I do dispose it, most times 🙂
    I was advised by a writing friend long ago, about “suddenly” and steer clear of it. Thanks for this.


    • margo roby

      09/06/2011 at 3:20 pm

      Wow! I just deleted my own comment by wondering what author means at the bottom of the window and clicking on it. Now, where was I? I used to be guilty of using most of the words I now soapbox against. But, once I taught creative writing and literary essays, my brain made a mental checklist and if I ever lapse it yells at me. You’ll become much more aware now that you are aware…
      Btw, if there is any topic you would like me to write about, do let me know any time. I still have a rough list, but would love to write about things my writer friends are curious about, or want to hear about.

  2. vivinfrance

    13/06/2011 at 2:57 am

    A useful reminder. Thank you. Have a great holiday, write a fanciful etheree, and return refreshed.

    Could you give us your view on poetic inversions – which I was taught to shun, but which sometimes force themselves into a poem.

    • margo roby

      13/06/2011 at 9:34 am

      Thanks, Viv. I see you are off for a bit too, busy.

      Poetic inversion. Nice. Passions run high on this subject. I shall root around, make notes, and yes, I shall have thoughts. Thank you for the topic!



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