Monday, January 5, 2009

Mentor Monday--Junk Words

Here's a favorite quote by Mark Twain:
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.

Damned good advice as far as I'm concerned!

VERY is what I call a JUNK WORD. It's not the only one, of course, here are a few more: JUST, EVEN, SO. Eliminate just these four words and your writing will be so much better. I guarantee you'll even feel better! (Yes, I know Twain used just in the quote above, but I'll bet he never overused the word or used it carelessly. A writer is allowed to use a junk word every once in a while. As in everything, moderation is the key.)

The international/public affairs magazine The Economist, has an article on its website titled, "Unnecessary Words." The first word mentioned is VERY. The writer goes on to point out other words that don't do anything to get a writer's point across.

Eliminating junk words is especially important for those who write for children. There's no sense in muddying a child's understanding of what you're trying to say!

A good book for all writers to study is Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh (Sourcebooks, 2007). It is well-written, witty, and eye-opening. At $14.95 it is worth every penny.

I'm going to close with one more quote by Mark Twain,
The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.
The guy was full of good advice!


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