Thursday, February 17, 2011

Words and How We Use Them

We often place unnecessary words in sentences. Words like "There are," "It is," and "In order to." There are other phrases we include just as useless. Check these examples from Kathleen Phillips How to Write a Story.

"There are five things that are important to remember." Besides the opening's useless words, the verb is passive and the word "that" is often not necessary. Change the sentence to "Five things are important to remember." The "that" disappeared but the verb does nothing. We could say "Remember these five important things." Sounds a little more emphasized. Depending on where the sentence falls, "things" might need to be named.

At other times we repeat ourselves with words. We say the same thing twice.

"First began" - the words mean the same. The sentence could read "First, . . . . " and then state the rest.

"Free gift." Isn't a gift always free?

"Small trifle" - the words mean the same.

"Final conclusion" A conclusion is final.

"Consensus of opinion" - leave out "of opinion." Consensus is an opinion.

"Carry out the implementation" - either "carry out" or "implement."

Another pet peeve of mine concerns adverbs, most of which are "ly" words. Usually they can replace the inactive verb rather than work as an adverb. Check these examples.

"walked slowly" - I checked my Flip Dictionary (a user friendly Thesaurus) and found these words for stroll - amble, mosey, ramble, roam, rove, saunter, wander.

"walked slowly and tiredly" - trudge - lumber, plod, slog, toil, traipse, tramp. Plodded - drag, grind, labor, schlepp, struggle, toil.

"walked unsteadily" - staggered, limped, hobbled. Stagger - lurch, careen, reel, rock, hobble, stump, sway, totter, waver, weave.

If I check each verb listed above, I find more word choices. Yes, it takes time! But when every word must count, the time is well spent.

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