Sunday, April 26, 2009

The word is very much overused

I hate the excessive use of the word "very" very, very much.

People write that a man is very tall or very short. A woman is very beautiful. A valley is very big.

Would a man be taller if he were very tall? If he were just tall, would he be shorter? Is very beautiful better than beautiful? And is big smaller or different from very big.

If a bomb is powerful, it doesn't need very to make it so. "Powerful" is a powerful word.

I once worked with a man who wrote that this guy was a "massive" 6-foot-5, 297-pound tackle. Is there such a thing as a 6-foot-5, 297-pound midget? His height and weight alone tell us that he's pretty big; we don't need massive to add to it.

The solution, of course, is to pick a word that does all of the work, one that doesn't need very for emphasis. Very small might become minute; very big might be called huge. And if a woman is beautiful, that says it all.

Mark Twain once wrote that you should change every instance of "very" in your writing to "damn." The editor would delete all of the damns, and the writing would be as it should be.

He was right. Very can be very, very, very annoying.

Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

1 comment: