Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CRAFT: Word Choice Pt II

Right ... so ... more on the topic of revising. (Can you tell where my mind has been lately?)



The other day, I grabbed my handy-dandy copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE and flipped through my highlighted and tabbed pages. I wanted to make this the best revision of this ms possible! Page 73 reads:

"Avoid the use of qualifiers. Rather, very, little, pretty -- these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words."


Yikes.

So, I used the "find" feature in MS Word and searched for these words. Holy Smokes! I thought I knew better than to use the word "very" in my writing. But there it was. Over and over AGAIN.

I did decide to leave the word "very" every once in a while in dialogue, but I deleted it from everywhere else. I almost didn't search for the word "pretty" because I thought I never used the word. Imagine my surprise when it showed up over and over AGAIN in my ms.

I think sometimes our mind becomes blind to certain words. Unnecessary words.

What do you think?

Do you think rather, very, little, and pretty are the "leeches" of prose?

16 comments:

  1. That's interesting. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that they're the 'leeches of prose', but I think unnecessary words do pull the writer out of the story.

    I want to go and search my own MS for those words now, but I'm scared of what I'll find...

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  2. I definitely use "little" too much (along with a few other words, like "just"), but those are first draft issues that can easily be fixed--like you're doing now! Good luck with it!

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  3. Any qualifiers that tell the reader what they should be feeling or seeing, instead of letting the words speak for themselves, is a "leech."

    Love that book.

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  4. I have those words in my writing. Mainly in dialogue. I like to use the word 'Well' or 'really' it's a bad habit but I'm conscious of it and try to avoid it when possible.

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  5. I just did a "find" search of my latest manuscript the other day with the words "very" and "just". Wow. So many times they were used and didn't need to be. Reflex words I call them. Most of them came out.

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  6. That's a wonderful way to put it. Leeches. I have not gone through my ms yet with the find tool, but I need to. I'm sure it will not be a *pretty* sight. ;)

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I know you've done a wonderful job with your boys. Just that you raised two of them at once is a major accomplishment in and of itself. I'll be thinking of you as you send them off into the world. Yes, and show them pictures of themselves as babies (even if they recoil) and remind them that they'll always be *your* babies and that they need to behave themselves when you send them off! LOL! :)

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  7. Your post today gave me a bit of a chuckle.
    W a y, w a y back...in the 70's I had an English prof who forbade us the use of the word 'very'. It was, according to him, a useless qualifier. To this day when I use the word, I break out into an anxious sweat. It's as if he's still marking my work. Anyhow, he'd have loved your post, as did I. I'm not a writer, other than for my own recreation, but I find your post ver...oops, extremely helpful. Thanks for the chuckle and the memory!

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  8. You just reminded me of how very much work I have left to do in my manuscript I thought was pretty much done. Thanks for the laugh before I go to remove the bloodsuckers from my book.

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  9. Love the line, "leeches that infest the pond of prose."

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  10. I'll leave those words in dialog because, let's face it, that's how we speak. But the Find function is our friend when it comes to rooting them out everywhere else.

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  11. I find that very interesting! Not just interesting, very interesting. I use that all the time to emphasize things. Sounds like you are working hard, but not very hard. :)

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  12. hello margo,
    thank you for stopping by my blog. Thanks for the follow lovely to meet you. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

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  13. I do think when we use them over and over they become leeches somehow. I read somewhere that even "really" is a leech and I find that whenever I remove it or replace with something else the sentence sounds better. I do find this all incredibly interesting. Really. LOL

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  14. GUILTY! I love that book in a love/hate kind of way. I use qualifiers all the time and it's major work to remove them. But the funny thing is I DO notice in a manuscript if there are too many. Ironic.
    Catherine Denton

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  15. That's a handy book to own. My editor had fun pointing out those leeches in my manuscript! :)

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  16. I also know not to use very, yet I still find it from time to time in my work. The Elements of Style is an excellent book.

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