Eliminate these 2 words to improve your writing

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. -Mark Twain

ReadWriteI just stumbled upon a web page (truly stumbled upon, as in “Thanks, Stumble Upon, the social media network I almost never use but might start glancing at occasionally after this!”) with a Mark Twain quote so priceless that it inspired this post:

It’s not just the quote, though. The article on the Writers Write website, “45 Ways to avoid using the word ‘very,'” goes to the heart of one of my pet peeves. There are two words that I think writers should excise from their vocabulary, and one of them is in fact “very.” The other? “Thing.”

Think about it. There is always a better word than “thing” when you’re writing. If you find yourself writing “thing,” stop yourself. Think of something else. (Or, in the spirit of excising the word “something” as well, think of a more specific noun. There’s got to be one.)

In the case of “very,” the good folks at Writers Write offer quality options for 45 specific uses of the word. For example, if you find yourself writing “very afraid,” consider substituting “terrified.” Check out the full list.

And in the spirit of sharing and crowdsourcing, here are some additional offerings:

VeryI wish I had a similarly handy table to offer up for eliminating the word “thing,” but I don’t – just a rule of thumb that “thing” always has a better substitute available.

Or, channeling Mark Twain, if you find yourself writing the word “thing,” just substitute “penis,” and your editor will make you change it.

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