Fine Tuning Your Story – Weasel Words

Posted on Friday, September 11th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

There are some some words that are simply space fillers, like the “uhs,” “wells,” and “you knows,” in conversation. These words seem innocent enough but are often very unnecessary. Watch for:

about,   exactly,  simply

actually, finally, somehow

almost, here, somewhat

almost like, just, somewhat like

already, just then, sort of

appears, kind of, suddenly

approximately, nearly, then

basically, now, there

close to, practically, truly

even, really, utterly

eventually, seems

How do these weasel words work? Consider the following paragraph:

The man was there in the bushes, waiting. When Joan was just three feet away, he kind of tensed, then leaped out and grabbed her. Joan struggled, but it seemed he was just too strong for her, and finally they fell down. She actually screamed, and even scratched his face.

All the bold words aren’t necessary. They create mushy prose. Take them out and see how much more dynamic the writing becomes.

The magic of a computer makes this an easy editing job. In most programs just go to edit, and then find. Type in your word and the computer will take you to the first one. Read your sentence and evaluate whether that word is “really” needed.

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