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Friday, October 5, 2007

Weasel Words: Confessions of a Sinner

Weasel words. Useless, repetitive, convoluted expressions that do nothing to enhance the story.

We all use them. They infect our narratives like a bad rash--and are just as obvious, especially to an astute critique partner.

In the last novel I finished, I wrote the first draft very quickly. Taking my cues from Candy Havens’ Fast Draft program, I tried not to over think the editing process. If you know me, you can imagine how hard it was for me to write without worrying about clarity, grammar or syntax. I couldn’t do the recommended 2 week program for a first draft, but I managed to write it in five weeks.

Because the novel was already requested, I turned it over to my CPs almost immediately, something I normally never do because I don’t like to turn over something that’s not as polished as I can get it.

There my weasel words were in all their glory. Clich├ęs, telly words, and overused verbs. I am a sinner.

Would I have caught them on my own? Yes. Eventually. But since I was in a hurry to get this polished, I needed virgin eyes to tell me what I missed.

A weasel word is a comfy word. It’s what you fall back on when your eyes are crossed and your brain looks like pudding.

You’ll recognize a weasel word when you see a fat sentence that tells you next to nothing. Weasel words also show up as “ly” words, diluting the strength of a real word into a mushy adverb or adjective. So now you have fat and flabby. Not pretty.

My weasel words tend to be repetitive terms. I like words like painted, and sneer; words my CPs call me on every time. Once I get a red flag, I’ll do a hunt and destroy on my wip and actively seek out those words. Then I can decide if there’s another word that can do the job better.

These two links had some interesting information on weasel words.

Weasel words are sinful. But you can be forgiven. Go forth and do penance. Seek out those weak language crutches and replace with virile words with oomph. Your narrative will get a big boost and a trimmer waist. --And it'll get asked to the prom.