Thursday, November 02, 2006

Writing Tips: Say What You Mean, Part 2

There's a whole coterie of words out there whose life mission it is to plague our work with ambiguity. Don't get me wrong; they DO have their place. But these pushy little fellows will run rampant all over your writing if you let them.

Their ringleader is ye olde state-of-being verb "seems."

Look at this sentence: "The sky seems to be grey."

Ahem. Is the sky grey or isn't it? Stand up to your writing: say what you mean! No more beating around the bush.

Here's a few more:

"She felt a feeling like anger rise up inside."
"It seems that the answer is found in our human nature."
"The buildings resembled 17th century homes."
"The river is probably the nicest place in town."

All too often, we haul out words like "seems" and "probably" and "like" because we're feeling apologetic or we're not quite sure of what we're saying. If you find yourself doing this, stop. Make sure of your facts. Solidify your opinion. And deliver it whole-hog. Have the courage to say what you mean. It makes for much better writing!

Was she angry or wasn't she?
Is the answer found in human nature or not?
Are the buildings 17th century homes?
Is the river the nicest place in town?

Saying what you mean will make your writing tighter, sharper, and more impactful. Excelsior!

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Anonymous Rachel R. said...

Ah, yes, the 'seems' problem. I have that problem all the time in my speech. Thank you for pointing it out. :)

3:47 p.m.  

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