Thursday, August 5, 2010

What are Weedy Words?

I do a lot of editing for small publishers and one of the things I see a lot in the manuscripts I work on are weedy words. These weedy words are also known as weak modifiers. Writers tend to use these words hoping to intensify the meaning of a word or phrase. They also use them without knowing it because most people write as they would talk. However, when you use weedy words what happens is we tend to prop our sentences or paragraphs up with a modifier, which may have been strong once but is now weak from overuse.

This happens a lot in normal speech. However, in writing it is better not to write has one would talk. Why, because it is important to make sure every word counts, for example: She gave them a very piercing glance. When she spoke, her voice was really bitter. The weedy words or weak modifiers are "very" and "really" in this sentence. By deleting these two words you will see how much more impact the statement has. She gave them a piercing glance. When she spoke, her voice was bitter. This also changes the tone from passive to active. You can cut such words and not take but add to the impact of a story. The most effective sentences are those in which every word pulls its own weight. Remember, we as writers, need to write tight so here is a short list of weedy words/weak modifiers: just really definitely so even exactly such at all anyway very certainly some and but was that as Another group of words that tend to make sentences or paragraphs passive are hedging words. These words tone down a statement. They give the impression that the writer is afraid to let the statement stand on its own two feet. Here is a list of these words: usually perhaps a little probably sort of look maybe kind of seem rather somewhat almost fairly quite slightly Basically, the trick to eliminate weedy words or word usage is to delete words which don't add to the sentence. These words are rarely missed when cut. However, there are times you have to use these words for the sentence be make since or to be complete, but if you delete one of these words and it doesn't take away from the meaning . . . the word is considered a weedy word.

4 comments:

  1. Virgina, thanks for the great list of words -- and at just{grin} the right time, as I'm editing my current work in progress.

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  2. Excellent tips! I love the example with "very" and "really". The sentence has much more impact without those words. My weedy word is "just". For some reason I use that one often and I'm constantly editing it out of my writing.

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  3. Thank you for sharing the list of weedy words. I'll make a copy of them to post where I can see them often.

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  4. I see the word "that" used a lot in the manuscripts I edit. I'm a big one for using "and" too much.

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