Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing: A Very Expensive Hobby

Very is one of my VERY favorite words yet I’ve been told, too many times to count, by teachers and professors that it’s a lazy word. John Keating stated that a man is not very tired, he’s exhausted and that a woman is not very sad, she’s morose. I can’t deny that he is correct.

Mark Twain said, “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.” I found this quote on a webpage in South Africa: Writer’s Write. This particular blog titled, “45 waysto avoid using the word very” goes on to quote Florence King: Very is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.  The blog goes on to list 45 examples that bewilder me.

My writing is to inspire, to make the reader feel the pain in the world, and to realize how many, many people overcome the hardships they’ve been delivered.

In what I consider to be my best work, TRANSMUTARE, I found the word ‘very’ twenty-four times. But let’s go back a few years. When I finished the novel, I felt it was worth a hefty edit. So a writing professor edited it for about a thousand dollars and told me it was as good as anything out there and I shouldn’t have a problem getting it picked up by a publishing company. What inspiration! I set out to look for an agent or publisher and after two years of rejection letters I decided it might need another look so I sent it to a prestigious agency in Iowa who corrected a few grammatical errors and made a few suggestions about the story line—another hefty edit and another hefty thousand dollars. After this second re-write I once again sent it out to over 100 agents and publishers and finally one agent accepted it. A year went by and nothing…not even a nibble. By this time I really wanted to get the story out there so I paid almost three thousand dollars for yet another comprehensive edit and a line edit. What I’m getting to is this: not one of these “professional” people noticed, mentioned, or suggested I correct all the ‘verys’. Not one!

There’s a scene in the movie MEET JOE BLACK when Death’s (Joe Black’s) spirit leaves an acquaintance of Susan’s, he says, “You told me you liked me.” She responds slowly, “No. I told you I liked you very much.” That scene would not have left goosebumps and tears had Susan answered, “Yes. I did.”

To be honest and not stubborn I replaced almost all of the ‘verys’ in TRANSMUTARE with VERY strong verbs. And the novel is better for it. But this doesn’t work all the time for me, at least. The words ‘very’, ‘extremely’, ‘really’, and ‘quite’ are adjectives that modify verbs in a strong manner. Here’s an article with a little food for thought from “English Language & Usage.

And I thank you VERY much for reading my somewhat sporadic blog and sticking by me.  I appreciate all of you!


  1. And I'm very, extremely, mightily glad you're blogging!

    Nice (and helpful) post. Thank you damn much.

  2. Writing must be a very costly endeavor. I "very" much liked your blog post!

  3. You're mighty welcome Marian! And thank you so very much,

    Lindy, for reading and being my biggest fan!

  4. A very entertaining article, Shelia. :)

  5. I too like the word 'very', but try to not use it. I must say I enjoyed your post 'very' must.