Writing Tips: Strengthen your prose by removing ‘very’

“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”
From Mark Twain’s Top Ten Writing Tips

I realised the significance of this advice while in the midst of one of the many revisions of The Author and The Hero. As I removed the word ‘very’ from a few paragraphs, I found that the resulting prose read much better – the words were crisper and flowed smoother than before. It was almost like an epiphany. I went through the entire manuscript, finding each ‘very’ and replacing it wherever it was superfluous, which it was except in a few cases.

Many of us tend to write as we speak and unconsciously use ‘very’ to stress the quality of whatever is being described – very beautiful, very calm, very tall. Remember that removing the qualifier ‘very’ can make your prose sound stronger, most of the time.

An example from The Author and The Hero,

1) I had picked up the term ‘bigster’ from Kailash, who used it very frequently.
2) I had picked up the term ‘bigster’ from Kailash, who used it frequently.

The second sentence conveys the same meaning as the first, but sounds more crisp and confident.

I now have this on my editing checklist – To use ‘very’ (very) judiciously.

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