Tighten Your Writing: Cut Out Weasel Words

Cute Weasel
Photo Credit: Cecil Sanders on Flickr

After looking at the picture for this blog post, I think we can agree that weasels are cute.

Weasel words, on the other hand, aren't that adorable.

When I use the term weasel words, I'm talking about little words that affect the tightness of your writing. Most of the time, they hinder your prose rather than help it. You should learn to cut them out.

The three most common weasel words that pop up in my work and the work of others are so, very, and suddenly. While editing my first and even second drafts, I'll catch myself using these words instead of letting adjectives stand on their own. Let's look at an example using all three of these devious rascals:

Cara was so very tired. She was suddenly bored with the world at large, and no longer wanted Roger to know how very scared she was to be with him. He was perfect for her. They were so very good together. Everything suddenly made sense.

Okay, so most people wouldn't pack all three words into a paragraph like that, but you understand what I mean. In order to tighten this passage, I'll cut out the weasel words so, very, and suddenly. Check out the difference:

Cara was tired. She was bored with the world at large, and no longer wanted Roger to know how scared she was to be with him. He was perfect for her. They were good together. Everything made sense.

Granted, there are still some aspects of that paragraph that could be improved, but the writing is so much tighter after taking out those words. If you're still not convinced, try this exercise with some of your own work. It's a great way to clean up your prose without trying too hard.

What do you think? What other weasel words do you cut from your writing?

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Writer @brianawrites shares three "weasel words" that undermine your writing and why you should cut them. (Click to tweet)