Writing Skills: Strengthen those sentences


(Just) A quick writing skills tip this month.

See what I did there?  Human beings love peppering their conversation and their writing with intensifiers like just, really and very. We do it because we think it makes our point stronger. Or we want to impress upon our readers how really really difficult something was, or how very very very sincere we are.

But guess what. These intensifiers weaken the sentence. But they are so seductive. In fact, I was about to write actually, and unless that is used in a grammatically correct way, it (literally) weakens the sentence. Literally is another one.

Try this. Say out loud, I am strong. Pause and feel how it resonates in your body.

Now say, I am very strong. How did that feel?

If you want to up your writing skills, go through your story or poem, and cut out all the justsreallys and verys. Also, actually and literally. While you’re about it, take away pretty, fairly and quite. If you read a line back, and the removal of the intensifier has made it weaker, then you need a different word. For instance, instead of I am very strong, write, I am powerful. Or tenacious, durable, tough, muscular.

You can read more about this in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones as well as many other great insights into improving your writing skills.

Tina Sederholm is a poet, author and performer. Sign up to her newsletter to get more tips every month on how to improve your writing and editing skills. Buy her latest collection of poetry and prose, This is Not Therapy, here.