Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing 101: Just, Very and Other Empty Words

When you're in school and the teacher says you've got to write a thousand words on a topic, I'm not going to hold it against you if you fill up those two pages with empty words. But if I buy your book and you do the same thing, I'm going to get upset. And in this particular example, I'm every reader. None of us like empty words...but all writers, even me, end up using them. 

Very Merry Unwriting to You

Empty words are those words that mean nothing by themselves. Very, for example, cannot stand alone. Just, really, way and suddenly are all pretty empty, and they're all pretty over-used. When used in this context, pretty is also empty. They're empty because they don't lend anything to the story. The argument can be made that they help add emphasis, but let's not kid ourselves. There are other ways to emphasize without adding extra words. Too many of those empty words will make your book feel...well, empty.

When it comes to writing books, readers don't want to weed their way past a lot of extra words to get to the story. They just want the story. So go through your entire book, and keep an eye out for those empty words that don't add anything extra to your narrative. Be brutal. 

And by brutal, I mean use the search function. I caught myself completely over-using the word just after reading something I'd written, so I used the search tool to find it everywhere -- and it was there a lot.

When you're writing a book, get to the point. Give readers the information they need to have. Don't over-stuff sentences with empty words or extra stuff. Just tell the story in plain, simple language with no filler. Try it this way, and you'll see that you get much better results than you would if you write pages and pages of flowery, stuffed text. Empty words are bad. Go forth, and annihilate them.

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