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Weasel Hunting

Suddenly, there they were. They were almost already too well hidden in my work. Those nasty little words were placed innocuously in my story by my hand. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I sat down and went weasel hunting.


What am I talking about? Weasel words. The previous paragraph is loaded with them. According to Wordnik, weasel words are unequivocal words used to deprive a statement if its force or to evade a direct commitment. In other words, weasel words suck the life out of a sentence.


With a list of words in a Word file, I went hunting in Second Chance and Justice. I thought this would be an easy task. Boy, was I wrong. It surprised me how many times I used the words almost and already in those stories, and don't get me started on just.


Are those the only words?


No. There are a lot more. Here are some of them:

Started

Suddenly

Began

"ing" words

Up and down (stood up and sat down)

Realized

About

Actually

Almost

Already

Appears

Approximately

Basically

Close to

Even

Eventually

Exactly

Finally

Here

Just

Just then

Kind of

Nearly

Now

Practically

Really

Seems

Simply

Somehow

Somewhat

Somewhat like

Sort of

Then

There

That

Truly

Utterly


Again, this isn't all of them. There are blog posts and books that have comprehensive lists of weasel words.


The next question is, should you get rid of all of these words in your story? My answer is no. There are times when weasel words fit and give the sentence the meaning you want. The trick is to see if removing one alters the sentence in any way. If it doesn't, you have just (yeah, I know) removed a weasel word. I deleted hundreds of them in both stories.


Some weasel words are easy to remove, such as somewhat like, suddenly, and utterly. Others, such as even, that, and ing words are more difficult.


But what if weasel words appear in dialog?


That's trickier. If your character is a verbose know-it-all who loves the sound of his own voice, then you want weasel words in everything this person says. Listen to people talk. You hear weasel words all the time. Learn when and when not to use them.


For example, In Justice, the main character says of a diner owner, "Louie's actually a chef." This is a case of when it's okay to keep a weasel word. In another story a character says, You already know that." There are two and it's okay to get rid of one, already.


As you've read, I used weasel words throughout this post because I needed them. Some readers and editors may not like it, but that's how it is. Again, when hunting for weasel words, see how their absences affect your sentences. Second Chance and Justice are cleaner stories because the unnecessary weasel words are gone.


Time to hunt for more. Have a great day!!!!




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