Watch Your Words: Keeping Things Precise

Hello my fellow freelancers! I’m fresh off the plane from Las Vegas and the Content Marketing Conference, which I was fortunate enough to attend as a guest of the WriterAccess team and their leader and conference coordinator Byron White. I had the chance to sit in on some sensational panels, including a keynote speech by my new copywriting brain-crush Douglas Van Praet. There will be more posts on the experience – and all the wonderful tips and tricks I can’t wait to show you – very soon! For now, I wanted to talk about word choices and how important they are to a smooth, cohesive piece of writing.

When writing for pay by the word, it can be tempting to ‘fluff,’ either consciously or unconsciously, with modifiers like very. Depending on how tired we are when working on a piece, we may not even realize we’re doing it! The key combination of ctrl and F (the “find word” command) is the best secret I’ve ever found to stamping out lazy writing – I just type in words I know I lean on heavily, such as very and great, and determine how often they show up in my finished text.

A quote beside an image of a younger Mark Twain reading "“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.” in white text on a black background

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was brilliant. (source: http://izquotes.com/quote/188037)

If you struggle with the same issues that I do, don’t be afraid to peek in a thesaurus or use words like those outlined in the image below, but don’t let these methods become a crutch. Ultimately, the goal is to write in such a way that you don’t need to do much sweeping up after – and that means consciously trying to keep yourself on course as you write, not just after the fact.

A still image of Robin Williams from the movie "Dead Poet's Society" above a chart detailing alternative words to use instead of adding very as a modifier.

While “very” is still an important part of a writer’s lexicon, it shouldn’t be overused! (source: http://9gag.com/gag/aKPyrrW?ref=fbp)