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Word choice matters.
Better writing involves using stronger words (adjectives, verbs, etc.) rather than redundant adjectives or a weak verb propped up by an adverb.
Sometimes words need to be explained, but piling up redundant words does not increase the intensity. Just increasing the word count is not good writing.
Description is important. Adjectives describe. Redundancy detracts from the description.
My original wording was “Superfluous adjectives detract from the description, especially if they convey the same thought.” “Superfluous” is a nice word, but I wanted an adjective to include “if they convey the same thought.”
Using thesaurus.com, I typed “superfluous” in the synonyms box. A list of 36 words appeared, the darker highlighted words being the most relevant. Clicking on each word gave me its part of speech and a brief definition.
- excessive: (adjective) repetitious
- expendable: (adjective) not important
- gratuitous: (adjective) free, not necessary
- redundant: (adjective) excessive, repetitious
- unneeded: (adjective) unnecessary
- useless: (adjective) not working, not valuable
“Redundant” included words conveying the same thought. “Repetitious” would also have worked.
Not saying that adverbs don’t have a place in writing, but think about each one. Would a stronger verb convey the same idea?
Most adverbs end with “-ly,” but several common ones do not.
Let a thesaurus guide you in your word choice. If you’re not sure which word is best, follow each one through the links to verify its meaning.
“make sure of” is three words: a verb and an adverbial phrase ending in what looks like a preposition.
powerthesaurus.org offers 224 words with similar meanings. Picking from the top group gave me several choices, some of which did not fit in my context.
- ensure: (verb) make a point of doing something, act purposefully and intentionally
- guarantee: (verb or noun) give surety or assume responsibility
- (a noun will not fit with my sentence)
- verify: (verb) confirm the truth of; to maintain, affirm, support (and other longer-winded definitions)
- assure: (verb) make certain of, inform positively and with certainty and confidence, etc.
- check: (verb or noun) examine so as to determine accuracy, quality, or condition; be careful or certain to do something, make certain of something, etc.
- confirm: establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts, strengthen or make more firm, support a person for a position
Looking at the definitions, I felt that “verify,” “assure,” and possibly “confirm” best fit with my use in the sentence. “Assure” felt the need for “that” something happen, so I chose “verify” in the sentence before this section: Let a thesaurus guide you in your word choice. If you’re not sure which word is best, follow each one through the links to verify its meaning.
Dialogue often contains phrases or word which mean nothing, but portraying speech realistically is important.
In narrative, consider that you are paying for publishing by the word. Not only is choosing a strong word better, but eliminating unnecessary words tightens the narrative you write. When you recognize them, you will find many more.
Some words or phrases to reconsider their use:
- a bit/a little
- about (+ a specific number)
- and then
- for what it’s worth
- in order to
- in the event of
- it is/it was
- needless to say
- so (+ adjective)
- sort of
- still (unless it means “calm”)
- that (between clauses)
- that is/that was
- there is/was/are/were
- this is/this was
- which is
- who is
Often, a single word is better than a phrase:
- ask a/the question = ask
- a/the reason why = a/the reason OR why
- due to the fact that = because
- each and every = each OR every
- final conclusion = conclusion
- fly through the air = fly
- may possibly = may
- where at = where
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