Using strong language in your writing

{avoid using the four-letter v-word}

Jordan Aspen
2 min readAug 16, 2018


“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.” ~Mark Twain

The word “very” is usually very unnecessary.

Search for the word “very” in something you have written. Try removing it. Does doing so change the meaning of your sentence dramatically? Usually it won’t. As Mark Twain said, the word “very” is about as necessary as an expletive. That is to say, while it may have its place it is generally grossly overused. At minimum you could choose a better adverb, like I demonstrated in the previous sentence, but there are even better options.

Replace “very” with strong adjectives.

Rather than writing “very good” say “excellent.” Instead of “very sad” choose “despondent.” In place of “very tired” use “exhausted.”

You can almost always find a more descriptive adjective to use instead of a tired adverb (like very) paired with a mundane adjective. Use a thesaurus if you need it, but resist the urge to choose obscure words simply for the sake of trying to be interesting. Find the best word to describe what you want to express and be content if that word isn’t fancy or pompous.

Replace adjectives with strong verbs.

Take a look at the verbs in your piece. Can you strengthen them and in so doing remove the adjectives? Rather than have a horse run very fast, make it gallop. Don’t let your character sleep shallowly when she could snooze or doze. Try a drizzle instead of a light rain.

Again, the thesaurus can be a very good — I’m sorry, excellent—friend if you don’t overuse it. Let it help you to grow your vocabulary, but always look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary before you use them. Be sure that you have chosen well and are confident in each word’s meaning.

🤔 Try it yourself: pull out one of your first drafts and see how many “verys” and other weak words you can replace with stronger language.



Jordan Aspen

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