Matthew 17:20, my favorite verse. "... If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weasel Words

What are weasel words? They're the little bugs that hook onto your manuscript and turn away the eyes of editors and agents faster than you can ask 'why?'
Here are a few examples in use:

She wondered who left the gate unlatched and decided to see if the culprit was still inside.

Why is using, she wondered, wrong? If I'm in her head (her point of view, also known as pov), I won't be thinking to myself in third person. ex. "I'm wondering who left that open?" No.I'd instead say to myself, "Who left that open?"So by using, she wondered, you're taking the reader out of your character's deep pov.(Not a good thing.)

Why is using, decided to, wrong? Same reason. I don't say to myself, "I'm going to decide to find out." No. Instead, I say, "I'm going to find out."

Here's a rewritten sentence of the original ex.
Who left the gate unlatched? She squeezed through the small opening between the gate and fence, careful of its squeaky hinges, and hoped to find out.

Notice I didn't simply say she was going to find out. I took the opportunity to describe what the character could see and hear. By eliminating weasel words it opens up more opportunity for descriptive writing. A small space allowed her to squeeze through. Rusty hinges threatened to give her away. Did you get a different visual this time?

Was. Was is one of those words we think we need to use all the time but really shouldn't. It can make for passive writing. My advice to you is to use your 'find' button and highlight all of the underlined weasel words I mentioned. Get rid of the two phrases that include wondered and decided. And severely downsize your use of was. Once you see it highlighted and begin working with how you can tweak the sentence to omit it, your new style of writing will come easier and easier. Oft times, the sentence can be changed to a question.

Hope I've been of some help.

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