Monday, October 7, 2019

Shoot the Weasel Words


By Andrea Merrell

Pet words and phrases, more commonly known as weasel words, are a major problem. All writers have them, even those of us whose job it is to edit them out of other writers’ manuscripts. 

If you’ve been writing for a while, you're most likely familiar with your own weasel words. If not, here are a few of the most common: that, just, really, surely, however, therefore, suddenly, quickly, quietly, softly, certainly, began to … 

The list goes on and on … and on.

Recently, I discovered a few of my own hiding in my current WIP. Let me share them with you: in fact, after all, tried to, cringed, possibly, probably, and struggled. You might be asking yourself what’s wrong with these words? Absolutely nothing—unless you do a word search and find them used forty times or more. Talk about a reality check. Ouch!

Few things are more annoying to readers than redundancies, especially seeing the same words and phrases over and over. I’ve read a few books over the years that I wanted to throw across the room because of too much repetition.

So, what’s a writer to do? We have to be aware of our pet weasels, be willing to part with them, find them, then shoot them. Bang! As they say, don’t marry your words.

Let’s look at a couple of examples, and you decide if the italicized words are necessary in the sentence.

  • Suddenly, Rae struggled desperately to keep her footing as she tried to survey the damage. Instead: Rae struggled to keep her footing as she surveyed the damage.

  • After all, may I at least reimburse you for the flowers? Better: May I reimburse you for the flowers?


Here’s another one for you to untangle:

  • Scott certainly thought that Karen was really just up to no good, so he suddenly moved quickly and quietly to the window just so that he could begin to see what she was doing.


Pretty bad, right? How about this? 

  • Scott thought Karen was up to no good, so he moved to the window to see what she was doing.


Do you see how eliminating those pesky weasel words tightens your writing? Be sure to do a word search and get rid of those little varmints. Your readers will be glad you did.

What about you? Do you have your own set of weasel words? We would love for you to share them with us.


(Photos courtesy of Morguefiles.com/mensatic and FreeDigitalPhotos.net/pandpstock001.)

TWEETABLE


2 comments:

  1. I'm an editor, and my own weasel words are "to be" verbs. (Ex: She started to run faster. He began thinking of possible solutions. Simple past tense is best: She ran faster. He thought of possible solutions.) I'm ruthless in catching them in other people's writing, but I'm blind to my own!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel your pain. LOL It's so much easier to see these issues in someone else's manuscript. That's why we all need editors, critique groups, and beta readers. Thanks for sharing. Blessings! :)

      Delete