My Pet Peeves … Improve your writing by eliminating words that are for the most part, meaningless.

Improve your writing by eliminating words that are for the most part, meaningless.

I am referring to ones like the ubiquitous had, and the infamous had had. I read a thriller by a well known author and counted had’s for the first part of the book. Interpolating for the whole tome, I figure the author could have shaved six pages off the manuscript by eliminating the word had. There are a few instances where had’s use is justified. One is to set a flashback into the past. But after the first one, the rest can be eliminated as long as there is a clear transition back to the present. Come on folks, seven in one paragraph, or fifteen on a page is downright excessive.

Others falling into this ilk are: very, just, than, that, and only. Toss in the most innocuous, imprecise word in the English language, nice. Example: She was nice. Does that mean she was pretty, fat, articulate, shy, loquacious, skinny, ugly? Any of those would be better than nice.

On this one, I agree with Mark Twain, if you see an adverb, kill it! (He is reputed to have said the same about adjectives.) Adverbs are lazy writing — they tell rather than show. And if used in a dialog attribution, the author should be executed at dawn — he said angrily 🙂

These are space fillers for third grade word counters. Remember how hard it was to get one-hundred words down on paper? Watch books by multi-published authors and how they ignore this idea. I consider it lazy writing and an insult to their readers.

Cheers, John
web: johnachor.comfacebook.com/jachor1LinkedIn.com

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One Response to My Pet Peeves … Improve your writing by eliminating words that are for the most part, meaningless.

  1. Cara Brookins says:

    I recall a suggestion by Twain (perhaps from his autobiography?) that you should replace every occurrence of ‘very’ with the word ‘damn’ and if it still fits, leave ‘damn’. I love this graphic method of eliminating extra words! Perhaps replacing words like ‘nice’ with something like ‘damn sexy’ would draw a writer’s attention to a problem with reoccurring word use. At the very least, it would make you giggle as you did the proof reading.

    Cara

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