“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain
Craft advice for writing has a standard admonition to look at “weak words,” i.e. qualifiers that weaken prose. Examples of such oft mentioned are: Very, all, so, quite, rather. You get the idea. Mr. Twain^ said it with aplomb.
A few months ago, while working on my third draft of a novel for middle grades, I chanced upon another word a great writer felt indicated “lazy” writing. The word is realize.
The writer suggests using this word is a shortcut to the experience of realization, a telling rather than showing. A character realized something and stated they had this realization. The reader didn’t get to experience this, we heard about it. Lazy writer = lazy writing.
Something about this struck me as worth examining. Was he talking to me? 😯
Using the find function in Word, I discovered (ahm, realized) that in a 38,000~ word manuscript I have forty-three “realize.” I mean, I had the realization that while the word may have its best uses, forty-three is a few too many. 😶
With little effort, it was easy to eliminate half. The sentences lost nothing and gained directness. A few more needed showing what the character experienced viscerally instead of the statement that the character realized.
By the time this Saturday night verb massacre ended, (it was in fact a Saturday evening) fifteen “realize” were left standing. I’m not a purist, and I can never take any suggestion as absolute. But I suspect this battle with a tick-word I didn’t know I had was good for the story.
Even strong words can be tick-words. Weak or strong, catch and kick the ticks out.