Weak words have no place in our stories. Removing them or replacing them with stronger words improves our writing.
In my last post, I included a list of weasel words that can slip into our writing unnoticed. Those listed can simply be removed without the need for changing the sentence.
Following are 12 weak words or combinations of words that can be removed or will, in some cases, need to be replaced with stronger ones.
1. Was – when used in passive sentences.
Many people think of passive voice as soon as they hear someone talk about was, but was can be both passive and active. Passive voice is in use when the first object in the sentence is being acted on by the second. The fix is simply to have the objects switch places, which eliminates the weak word was along with the passive voice.
Weak: The door was slammed by the angry teenager.
Stronger: The angry teenager slammed the door.
2. Forms of be in sentences that aren’t passive.
Weak: She was hungry.
Stronger: Her stomach rumbled.
3. Vague uses of it.
Weak: She savored the cheesecake. It tasted great.
Stronger: She savored the cheesecake. The rich dessert tasted great.
4. The combination of it and was.
Weak: It was a dark, dreary day in the city.
Stronger: Fog entered the city uninvited and refused the sun admittance.
5. Vague uses of there.
Weak: She walked into Starbucks. She went there every morning.
Stronger: She entered Starbucks, which she did every morning.
6. Adverbs used as modifiers in exposition and dialogue tags.
Weak: She drove quickly across town to the Emergency Room.
Stronger: She raced across town to the Emergency Room.
Weak: “Excuse me. I need to slip out for a moment,” she said softly.
Stronger: “Excuse me. I need to slip out for a moment,” she whispered.
7. Was used with –ing form of a verb.
Weak: Ever since she received The Call, she was dancing on the clouds.
Stronger: Ever since she received The Call, she danced on the clouds.
8. Simultaneous action using the –ing form of a verb when the two things can’t be done at the same time.
Weak: Walking across the stage, she took her position at the piano.
Stronger: She walked across the stage and took her place at the piano.
9. Awkward had had construction.
Weak: She had had enough of his empty promises.
Stronger: She wouldn’t listen to any more of his empty promises.
10. Multiple prepositions.
Weak: She hit the volleyball up over the net.
Stronger: She hit the volleyball over the net.
11. Unnecessary prepositions.
Weak: He stood up and stretched his weary limbs.
Stronger: He stood and stretched his weary limbs.
Weak: He shrugged his shoulders.
Stronger: He shrugged.
Weak: “Let’s meet for lunch at twelve noon.”
Stronger: “Let’s meet for lunch at noon.”
I’ve spotted every one of the Dirty Dozen in my writing at times. Have you? Which of them do you find most problematic? Which of them do you have under control?
Can you think of other weak words to add to the list?