One of my all-time favorite bloggers—Jeri Walker—explored “Weak Words” in a recent post on her Word Bank blog. This post inspired me to strip away all sorts of unnecessary adverbs and to transform ordinary words into stronger more specific descriptors. ‘Rapid’ is so much faster than the weaker ‘very fast.’ Isn’t it?
When you review text with this focused mission in mind, all sorts of things happen. First, the text gets tighter. Then the dialog gets punchier. And finally, you start to find the weak and redundant language that weighs readers down.
A few days after I read Jeri’s post, I saw this advertisement on a subway. The photograph cuts off the name of the business. It’s one of the many companies offering to take over the day-to-day hassles of billing, payroll, human resources paperwork, etc., that mire some entrepreneurs. As far as I’m concerned, the ad copywriter’s desire to emphasize a point backfired. Adding “very” to “unique” weakens the otherwise compelling statement. Perhaps the writer and client thought “very unique” was cute? I don’t. I think it sounds mushy and silly. It dilutes the specific definition of ‘unique’ by making it possible to be more, or less, one-of-a-kind.
Now I’m on a quest to find more weak word examples to share. But my mission is to strip those pesky extras from my written communications. The one exception is in dialog where the weak words reflect the reality of the character. That caveat aside, I’m going for strength!