Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Very: The Right Word Speaks Volumes

As writers, we are expected to choose our words carefully. They need to be precise, descriptive and completely useful. We’re told about a “list” of words we shouldn’t use, such as “that,” “feel,” words that end in “ing” and too many adverbs.

“Very” is one of those words. Any word with “very” in front of it can be replaced with another, better word. “Very pretty” can be replaced with “beautiful” or “gorgeous.” “Very hungry” can be replaced with “starving” or “ravenous.”

It can be hard to find the exact right word the first time. Often we have to write and rewrite before we can get the exact word, the exact rhythm, the exact image conveyed by those words. We use a thesaurus, dictionary, Internet, writing partners, critique groups, beta readers to help us. One of the best ways to find the right words is the radio, in my opinion. There are so many songs whose lyrics are amazing. The singers and songwriters have a way of expressing themselves that I don’t find in most books.

Today, while listening to the radio, I heard a song use the word “sunglasses” to mean a person wearing sunglasses. I can’t remember the name of the song, even though I heard it twice in the space of an hour, but I remember thinking how descriptive it was. Just by that one word, I can picture a cool guy wearing shades. And it’s so much more powerful than saying, “a very cool guy who wore sunglasses.”

What words do you overuse? With what words can you replace them?


  1. Ana could probably tell you about my over-used words! But 'that' is definitely one I have to watch, plus I have to be careful about hearts jumping, leaping, jerking etc!

  2. I am a big fan of the thesaurus on my computer. Once, it helped me give a love scene a whole new direction as I found lots of new, wonderful ways to use the word 'hot'!

  3. I rely on Thesaurus.com which gives masses of synonyms for words.

  4. I admit, I still pull out the one I've had since college, when I'm not too lazy. Otherwise, I see what the Word program suggests to start.

  5. I love the Flip Dictionary from Writer's Digest. I use the Thesaurus in Word, but when I can't find a word, the Flip Dictionary is most helpful.