Hard skill number two: vivid is good

rogersgeorge on March 28th, 2010

Two nouns and two verbs. You should avoid these four words whenever you can. That’s hard, sometimes, because you have to—(see the last word in this post).

Any form of “to be,” “to do,” thing,” and “stuff.”

These words can substitute for about anything. Because they are so versatile, they don’t mean much themselves, so don’t use them to substitute for the word you mean.

Here’s a recent 911 call in Southern Indiana: “Got a man with a knife who’s doing things.”  A 911 call, and a knife. And all we get is “doing things”? Give me more!

The police were more articulate, and I use them as an example of good writing: “ [he] used a hunting knife to cut through meat packages, throwing open containers of raw beef on the floor. He then poured dog food over some of the meat in hopes of contaminating it…” That tells you what’s going on.

What are your favorite meaningless words? Add yours to these four in the comments.

So. Whenever you find yourself about to use one (or more) of those meaningless words, don’t. Use the real words, words that describe what’s happening. The last word: Think.

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