The word “very”

This mini post has been churning around in my head recently after I read a short story online. While the story seemed okay, the word “very” rang heavily throughout and by the end I was just annoyed.

As writers I believe we should avoid the word very. Don’t get me wrong, it’s part of the language and you can throw it around in your everyday speech and type it in emails and even in blogs (I’m sure I’ve dumped it in more than one of my posts!) but when it comes to your writing, your actual stories, I say – Leave it out.

So what is my issue with ‘very’?

Simple, it is an empty word.

For example: The man was very tall.

See, it shows us nothing. “Very tall” what is very tall?

Example: The dog was very fast.

Are you seeing it? No, you may get a vague image of a tall man or a fast dog but it does nothing. Imagine if all your writing had this. What image would it paint?

With this in mind you need to cast away your “very’s” and go with adjectives (yes I know very is an adjective and an adverb… apparently… but you know what I mean).

Example: The man towered over everyone.

With the use of the word “towered” you get a better feel of this man’s height. Buildings tower, trees tower, mountains tower – all this imagery!!

Example: The dog darted across the ground. The dog shot across the ground

These examples add real movement to the dog. The word darted, even the sound of it gives this image of sharp, fast maybe even zigzagging like a hare does. The word “shot” gives an image too. Maybe you unconsciously associate the word with a shot from a gun – we know that action is fast so this metaphor adds power to the image of this dog.

This is just a little post as I think it is easy enough to see what I mean. The word ‘very’ (in my opinion) is limited, bland and shows us nothing.

So take some time out, get the work you’ve been writing or something you’ve finished and read through it. Highlight all the “very’s” you can find. Have you used it instead of a strong adjective? If so, think of something better and replace it.

Keep an eye out for those sneak “very’s”, it can be easy to fall into habits where you drop them in without thinking.

Good writing


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