Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writing 101: Be Very Wary of Using Very

 How many times does the word very appear in your book? You really ought to find out, because really, the word is very, very unnecessary. In fact, some writers have made it a point never to use the word at all.


Very in Literature

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." This was Mark Twain's opinion of very...and most anyone will agree that Twain was, and remains, a very successful writer. Very hasn't got much of a place in literature because it is a very empty word. 

Most of the time, the word very has very little meaning when it's used in writing. It's a word that exists almost solely for emphasis alone, except for when it's used in a very specific circumstance. Very can also denote something precise or exact (those were her very words), but most of the time it's used as a word of emphasis rather than as a synonym for exactness. 

And if the best you can come up with to emphasize a point is using the word very a bunch, you've got deeper problems than this one word.

Very Good Writing

Sometimes, a writer has to infuse a description or dialogue with a little drama -- and that's where very comes in very handy. But it's a plain word, it's an over-used word, and you can do better. Very isn't the only word in the English language that's used to emphasize a point. Replace occurrences of very in your book with much prettier words like profoundly, extremely, greatly and a bunch of other adverbs that sound way better. Replacing ho-hum, ugly words like very with something better -- or getting rid of them entirely -- will make your writing flow better and read more smoothly and professionally to your readers...and isn't that a very good reason for avoiding it?

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2 comments:

  1. Woah! Awesome tips and tricks here! I found you on google+ friends and was meaning to read a few of your blogs soon. I havn't been across mant literary tips and I might aswell use them while I'm here. It just might be very helpfull.. see what I did there :P Anyways would you have any tips for writing book reviews for instance, since that is what my blog is about and that would be helpfull. Anyways i'll check out the rest of your stuff great job! Following you :D

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  2. Great idea! I'll do a post about review-writing soon. Thanks for the suggestion.

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