Tag Archive - Pesky adverbs

How Writers Can Trap Sneaky Weasels

This week editor Christy Distler takes on this month’s Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words.

This month we’re discussing adverbs and “weasel words” in fiction. We’ve already talked about adverbs, so today I want to take a look at weasel words. What is a weasel word, you ask?

Merriam-Webster defines a weasel word as “a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position.” This definition describes how weasel words are used throughout a variety of situations, but it has some truth in fiction writing as well.

In fiction, weasel words are not intended to purposely evade directness, but their use can certainly result in a sentence that lacks concise forthrightness. Let’s review the more common fiction weasel words:

  • Weak “to be” verbs: is, are, was, were, had, had been,
  • Superfluous words: that, very, just, really, rather, kind of/sort of, nearly/almost, quite, like, even, so, absolutely, usually, truly, totally, probably, actually, basically, extremely, mostly, naturally, often, particularly, started to/began to
  • “Telling” words: seemed, knew, thought, felt, wondered, mused

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