My editor, David Stevens, dislikes me using his name in print. However, for readers, I am risking the ire of one of my favorite writers to share the “Wendel’s Notes” version of tips Stevens presented at a recent workshop for local writers.
The following words should be deleted from most sentences: “just,” “really,” “very,” “perhaps/maybe,” “quite,” “amazing,” “literally,” “stuff,” “things” and “got.”
People think these words make their writing stronger, but, generally, leaner sentences are more muscular.
Blame me for the following examples:
• “John gets ‘very’ mad when someone calls him crazy for keeping bats as pets.”
(John sounds bat-crazy enough without being called very mad.)
• “Since we score more points, we have a ‘really’ hard time understanding why the paper gives the Wildcat football team more coverage than our Beechnut and Beer Bowling League.”
(I hate to give the bowlers a hard time, but really?)
• “The zebra-striped pajamas he wore to Wal-Mart were ‘just’ terrible.”
(Just or not, it is terrible enough to get photographed in pajamas and become one of Facebook’s “Wal-Mart People.”)
• “He ‘literally’ hit the ball over the moon.”
(More likely, the ball literally busted out a windshield on Earth.)
• “She was ‘quite’ upset when she found out her boyfriend stood her up for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.”
• (Had he stood her up for the Beechnut and Beer Bowling League, she would have been more justified in being quite upset.)
• “Carly Rae is thinking ‘maybe’ she might call the editor and give him a piece of her mind for not running a photo of her blue-ribbon zucchini on the front page.”
• (If she leaves a message telling him “Here’s my number, call me, maybe,” I wouldn’t because she may be crazy.)
To avoid the fate of David’s reporters who abuse these words — he makes them do pushups — avoid them unless “absolutely” necessary.
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