Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weakening Words

I sat on a panel of writers at an editing workshop last weekend. That got me thinking about what I’ve learned from editors over the years. Perhaps my most important lesson was to recognize and murder passive voice.

Recently, an editor pounded on me about my use of weakening words. I probably sin the most with the word “though.” Here’s an example from my book Wizard Chase:

I didn't like the plan, much. It was the best plan we had, though. It was the only plan.

That short paragraph is stronger, and one word shorter, without “though.”

I’ve taken to doing a word search for “though” in all my writing. I find that I can get along without it about 95% of the time. I sometimes leave it in when it’s not strictly needed, if it’s in conversation. Otherwise, I’m aggressive with the delete key.

There’s another weakening word that I’m pone to use in my writing. Stand by for irony. The word is “just.”
With apologies to Nike, here’s an example from the same book—the same chapter—where “just” is unnecessary and weakening:

“Let's just do it," said Valven.

The Internet has weakening word lists. Check them out. Do a word search on your own writing. Do you see words such as seemed, well, while? Can you get along without them?

Writing is the quintessential example of less is more.

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