Tag Archive - adverbs

Weasel Words: The Cure for Prepositional Phrase-itis

This week editor Linda Clare continues our look at Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words. 

This month, our posts are all about the words writers commonly overuse or use improperly.

Let’s look at how prepositions are abused in fiction and how to fix them.

A prepositional phrase is often a directional or time place-keeper. Common prepositions include in, to, of, from, on, over, under, through, above, and below. Writers use them to help readers imagine scenes more completely. Instead of floating in space, a character stands in the room. She lays her keys on the table and opens a letter from a long-lost lover. When she slumps to the floor, readers are grounded.

It’s difficult to write much of anything without using prepositions. Yet writers often overuse them—just in case readers didn’t get the gist of a sentence the first time. In this case, prepositions become weasel words: they’re unnecessary, distracting, and wordy. A case in point might be a paragraph with a POV character moving through it:

Continue Reading…

Actions Speak Louder than Dialog Tags: Using Beats in Writing

 This month our editors are taking a hard look at pesky adverbs and “weasel words”—our Fatal Flaw #11. Even a story with a great plot and engaging characters can suffer reader ennui due to the overuse of these words. No matter how long your novel, every word should be chosen with care. Words have weight, and all those extraneous words can sink your story. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson kicks off our look at this flaw with a discussion of dialog tags and narrative beats.

Our focus this month is on words: specifically, adverbs, superfluous verbiage, tics, and “weasel words.” Overuse of such words constitutes our Fatal Flaw #11, a pox on many writers’ prose.

Before I jump into my own topic on this flaw, a few words about said.

Said, when used with a pronoun, creates what’s known as a dialog (or speaker) tag: it’s a phrase that tells us who’s speaking. He said, she said, they said, he called, she cried, he replied, and all the rest. Continue Reading…

Double Your Adverbs, Double the Trouble

Just as there are uncomparable adjectives (such as perfect or infinite) that cannot take a modifier, there are adverbs that shouldn’t have the suffix “ly” added to them.

We usually picture adverbs as ending in ly, so it’s common at times for writers to think those two little letters are always needed. But they’re not.

Some of those words are doubtless, thus, seldom, as well as the words first, second, third, and last. Yes, some of these words with “ly” tacked on are in the dictionary, but those letters are superfluous and, according to Bryan Gardner, “reveal an ignorance of idiom.”

See how unnecessary those two letters are:

  • She doubtless meant to come home on time.
  • First, open the door. Second, peek inside.
  • Thus, no one has to know.
  • He seldom has to lie.

Why clutter your sentences with extra letters that aren’t needed? Do you think saying “Firstly, she doubtlessly meant to open the door. Thusly, she seldomly needs to knock first” has a nice euphony to it?

I think not. Thus, doubtless, I am seldom wrong.

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