"Don't say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be tired, Be confused. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don't hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident."In On Writing Well, William Zinsser recommends we prune out small words that qualify how we feel and think and see. Words like:
in a very real sense
The list is much longer, of course, but those are a few examples provided by Zinsser of words that "dilute" our effectiveness as writers. Our powers of persuasion are strengthened when we leave out the qualifiers and let our characters simply feel and think and see. He sums up the importance of this trait in our writing nicely.
The larger point here is one of authority. Every little qualifier whittles away some fraction of trust on the part of the reader. He wants a writer who believes in himself and what he is saying. Don't diminish this belief. Don't be kind of bold. Be bold.It's so easy to fall into the trap of qualifying statements. I see it in the writing of my students all the time. From now on, I will look more closely at my own writing. Now, where did I put those pruning shears?
How about you?
Do you need to sharpen your pruning shears?
Do you need to sharpen your pruning shears?
Great post! And I totally agree.
I'm pruning right now. :D
That's interesting. I hadn't ever thought about that before. Shannon, you're posts are always so educational. Thanks!
Great post! Thank you for this. I think I'm going to have to start hunting for some shears myself now.
Useful that. I'm getting a bit better at somewhat pruning those little words a little. Begins and starts are definitely going by the wayside, sort of.
I love this post! I use 'kind of' A LOT. I don't even realize I'm doing it, my characters sound so wishy washy. I have lots of pruning to do :)
Yes! I need Edward Scissorhands.
I have a whole list of words I try to avoid. I used to use very a lot, but I've wiped that one off.
I agree with Catherine I need Edward Scissorhands. I'm so guilty of this. I guess some spring clean up is in order.
Thanks for the post...awesome.
Awesome post! That is so true. I am bad about those hesitant phrases.
Ouch! I use some of these expressions. Since I'm in the editing mode, I'll add these to the "items to cut list."
Great post! I have lots of those little words that bite the dust in revisions - and they can be really hard to *see*, too.
What a great reminder! Okay, I'm off to do some snipping--I mean revising--with an eye to cutting out qualifiers in my WIP. Thanks so much, Shannon. Timely tip...
Um, I actually need to buy a pair.
Very much so. hehehe
I need to work on that while adding descriptive details that show. Maybe after this rewrite I'll get to work on that. Since in the rewrite I need to double word count instead of cutting anything.
Ooh, I totally need to prune words like that!
Thanks for the reminder. ;)
I like how you sad it! There are a lot of words like that I've cut, for sure.
I always need to sharpen my pruning shears. And those "dead words" as I was taught to call them are a great place to start. And of course there is the ever-dreaded "passive voice"...
I love these little words because they are what I leaned on when I first started to write. They're like comfort words.
Now I don't need them, but I find I write them still here and there in my first drafts!
I usually don't look at the stuff in the first draft. But yes, definitely need to keep a list of all those words that water down writing next to me when I'm editing. I always forget!
Ooooh, excellent list Shannon. I'm so glad you shared. I'm revising right now and these are great to look for! =)
Mine is more like a chainsaw!! :)
I need to drop the too---using it way too much:) I read a list like this when I first started writing and had to get rid of just more than once!
I definitely need the pruning shears and extra sharp.
Thoughts in Progress
It's a recurring problem! When we speak, we use these words to soften the impact of what we say. Which is why writing is not just speaking written down! I have an editor who gave me a long list once of these words. So helpful!
Writing with confidence! It's almost reflexive to prune out those qualifiers now (ha! but not in my blog postings!) - I almost have to force myself to use them on occasion, when needed.
Great post and I definitely need my pruning shears!! I plan on doing a little pruning this evening! I find that they are fillers in my first draft, I'm feeling all the right things but I'm not conveying them on paper. Revisions is where the real business begins!
well, kinda, sorta, a little bit....
Pretty good quote at the top. No, make that kinda awesome. Somewhat informative? A bit helpful. Hmm...
True quote! I do my best to smite adverbs, but they keep popping up like a Whack-A-Mole game.
Now you've got me thinking...is the word "extremely" or words like it on his list? Or just the wishy-washy ones like "very"?
I am so guilty of this. Where are those pruning shears?
Ah, passive voice. I get so used to using it in everyday speech (you know, to get along with everyone, sound humble and not incite arguments), that it creeps into my ms when I'm not diligent.
Luckily, they're pretty (!) easy to banish after some (!) distance from the work. :-)
I like the little checklist.
Pruning can be hard. In our own lives too... :O)
Ooohhh.... I feel busted. :)
Great quote!! I love the Be Bold part. I've told myself that in life, but missed it in my writing.
Yes! I love using words like rather, very, quite, a bit, and *pretty much* all the words on that list (lol!). I figure it's okay to use them as long as I know they must be cut for the final draft. :)
Love the directness of Zinsser's quote.
My pruning shears are out. Still have 11K to cut from my ms but I've already cut 22K. Some whole scenes but sure there was a world of wordiness that I've blown out of the water. ";-)
I'm sure my words could use a good chop. Great post!!
I'm sure I do! Thanks for the reminder. :-)
Great advice! I'd heard it before, but I'd forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!
I've got to learn to be more bold with my words as well. It's true though, we don't need wishy-washy words strewn throughout our work.
Bookmarking! SO helpful!
My first drafts are littered with these kinds of words. Thank heavens for the 'find' tool and for Wordle in helping me search them out!
I need a whole new pair of pruning sheers! I don't sheer near enough. Great post!
I am so guilty of this. But I'm learning! Very informative post, thank you. :)
Yes, I have a large comprehensive list of words I highlight as the last step of editing. Get 'em out of there!
Sometimes I need to use a chain saw before the pruning shears!
I love Zinsser;s book! I haven't read it in a long time but this post makes me want to dig it out and read it again!
I hadn't thought of this. I use qualifiers all the time in my blogging. I'll have to somewhat examine my manuscript and see if I maybe a little bit use qualifiers rather too often.
Yup. I always have to cut out those types of words from my final MS. They tend sneak up a little bit on ya.
Lol. I did that last one on purpose. ;)
I'm getting better at it, I admit this was my greatest crime in my first drafts. Good reminder :-)
I have this book from one of my college classes and it's such a good one.
Great blog post! Thanks for sharing. I think I need a pair of pruning shears that I can take to my writing.
How was that for being concise?
oooh, I'll be pulling out my pruning shears soon. Thanks for the reminders! I'm getting better at recognizing the words without having to think about it which I take as improvement.
This is true for our speech patterns and our writing. I learned the lesson quickly when I started writing magazine articles and had to count words, and whittle them down!
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