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  • Richard Farr

A humbling experience with verbal tics

First, you do the writing. Then, the rewriting and throwing away and rewriting and rewriting. Then, editing, and more rewriting. Eventually, copy-editing (see earlier post). And finally proofreading. By which stage you  think everything should be perfect, except maybe that one errant “mend” that should be “mind,” or “starts” that should be “started.”

But now, at this eleventh hour, my copy-editor gently points out that in this manuscript I have used the modifier “very” over 80 times. A quick search reveals the awful truth: almost none of those “verys” adds strength to the sentences I put them in, and the majority are obvious weaknesses.

“Stefan’s voice seems to come from very far away.” “They deposit him very gently in a wheelchair.” “After a few very uncomfortable minutes …”

They are the verbal equivalent of hiccups.  I have a list of hiccups now, with “very” newly added to it:

Suddenly a bit (of) at all really in order to major completely just basically …

I’m sure better writers have cleansed their minds of these nuisances. The rest of us have to revise, revise, and rely on people with better eyesight.

Yeah, verily.


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