Tag Archive - weasel words

Writers, Wipe That Smile off Your Page

This week editor Robin Patchen wraps up our look at Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words. If you’ve missed the other posts, start with this one here.

It’s been said (by someone) that 93% of communication is nonverbal, and of that, 55% is pure body language, including facial expressions, hand gestures, and postures.

For instance, take the word sure. If it’s delivered with a big smile, it means something very different than when it’s delivered with a glare. One is agreement, the other sarcasm or distrust.

We authors know this—we’re students of human interaction, after all. So it makes sense that we so often include facial expressions and body language in our stories.

But these nonverbal descriptions can quickly become weasel words and bulky phrases, shoved into our paragraphs to convey quickly—and perhaps lazily—our characters’ feelings and reactions. Continue Reading…

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

Continue Reading…

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…

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