So I’m going to return to adverbs. This time: LATELY. I don’t have a big problem with LATELY, but I found some unnecessary ones in The Proper Way to Say Goodbye. Here they are.
-Mom had encouraged me lately to go to a group for those who lost someone to suicide.
-She’s known something has been off lately, and she accused me of cheating on her.
-You’ve been going home a lot lately.
Now, it helps to see the surrounding text in these cases, but in the ones above, I didn’t think the LATELY was necessary. Other times, I did leave it. Here are a few ones I didn’t remove.
-Lasagna usually made me happy, but my appetite had disappeared lately.
-You haven’t written much lately.
It’s hard to explain exactly what the difference is, but with the above two, the lately is more important because I’m calling attention to what’s happening now to show how it’s different from before. Whereas the first ones, it’s not as important to show that it has changed.
Does that make any sense?
So LATELY is one of those words you can sometimes delete. Or maybe you want to leave it in for voice. But I took out a few at least.
So I’m running out on the most obvious words to talk about. I’m sure there is more, I just have to take a good look at what I’ve done. Maybe plan ahead and not write this a few days before it’s supposed to go up.
The word I’ll talk about today is TURNED.
Originally when I searched The Proper Way to Say Goodbye for TURNEDs, I was looking for unnecessary ones.
-The pain flashed across her face as she turned and stuck the lasagna inside the oven.
Here the TURNED is not needed. It’s just an unnecessary stage direction. I can just say she put the lasagna in the oven, because the turning here isn’t important. So I had some like this, but I found another interesting thing.
A lot of times I used TURNED when I could probably find a more descriptive word.
-Her lips turned up in a smile.
How about rolled or curved or twitched or something. Let’s get a better word.
-My stomach turned.
Or maybe it heaved, quaked or soured. And I’m sure many people would use this occasion to insert a simile. I am horrible at similes, so I didn’t.
My point is: See if you can find better words than TURNED. One interesting thing I found during my search is how many different ways I used TURNED. It has several meanings. Maybe there’s more, but this is what I found.
Turn corner: change direction
Body turned: rotate
Stomach turned: queasy
Thoughts turned to: switched to
Attention turned to: changed
Turned down: refused
Looks like TURN can be used quite a few ways, huh. And in how many of those cases could I find a better word? I’m sure quite a few.
So my point is, not only is TURN sometimes an unnecessary word, often it is a bland word, let’s see if you can find a better one. (Where’s that thesaurus?)
I’m gonna tackle something different today. The word SO. In sentences that have 2 independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction (and, but, or, so, nor), you are supposed to use a comma. Here are a couple examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
-I’d get over my anxiety of dating a girl, and we’d be sitting in her trendy apartment sipping wine.
-He acted like he was my dad, but I had my own father who lived in California.
-I repeated their names in my head, so I wouldn’t forget again.
But one of those is wrong. The 3rd. There should be no comma before SO. And for the longest time, I put commas in sentences like these, but it felt wrong. And I didn’t know why it felt wrong, it just did. But I put the comma there cause the rule is use a comma.
And now I have figured it out. And that makes me happy. (It doesn’t take much, I guess.)
Check out these examples.
1. Sheila and Candace have a lot to say, so sometimes you just need to jump in.
2. Her teasing brought on a full blown blush, so I gave a quick wave and slipped out.
These follow the rule. You know comma before the conjunction.
3. I’d definitely get a lottery ticket so I could buy a yacht.
4. I repeated their names in my head so I wouldn’t forget again.
Can you see the difference, and do you know why it’s different? Now I know that exception.
You don’t use a comma when the SO acts as a SO THAT. The THAT is implied most of the time, and we usually don’t see it, but you don’t use the comma.
This next explanation doesn’t come from a grammar book. It’s just what I’ve learned. And although it seems to work in my writing, there might be a time when it doesn’t.
Use the word WHY to tell the difference if you’re not sure.
I’d definitely get a lottery ticket. Why? So I could buy a yacht. (Makes sense, huh?)
Sheila and Candace have a lot to say. Why? So sometimes you just need to jump in. (Doesn’t make sense.)
So as silly as this seems, I never knew of this exception. But my intuition told me something was wrong. I guess I should’ve trusted it.
Over is another word I’ve found that I use when I don’t need it. Check out my examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
-I walked along the wall of windows, over to the corner where they sat.
The sentence doesn’t change if I remove the over.
-I repeated their names over in my head so I wouldn’t forget again.
Again, don’t need the over.
-I slathered butter on the two pieces of toast, and he slid over the garlic salt over .
Hmm. Look at that. I used it twice. Whoops.
Overall ,I got rid of over 40 overs. Do you ever use over unnecessarily?
I found another word I used way too often. All.
A lot of times I just didn’t need it, and those extra Alls were cluttering up my manuscript. Below are my examples from the Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
-Read the story and give me all your comments and suggestions.
(What, did she think Chloe was only going to give her the first 2 comments and not the rest?)
-You know, your mom might be worried about you being all alone.
(Hmmm. Is all alone like way worse than just alone?)
-I jumped to my feet and threw all my stuff into my backpack as my tears thickened.
(She’s about to run, why wouldn’t she throw it all in?)
-But he wouldn’t ignore me, and we’d all have a fun time.
(She’s talking about 3 people. Why do I need all?)
-I appreciate all the extra time you’ve put in for me to get this done.
(So if I take out all, would that mean she only appreciated half of the extra time?)
So I deleted about 80 Alls. One thing I did was to leave the All in for Chloe’s voice. But with the other characters, I took it out.
There is another unnecessary word I was using way too often: Out. Most of the time, I just didn’t need it. So I did a search of The Proper Way to Say Goodbye to get rid of my outs. Here are a few examples.
-Students lay out in the grass, sunning themselves in the unusual September eighty-degree heat wave. (Btw: not in the grass, on the grass)
-My fantasies played out often in my head, the details varied.
-His dark bangs brushed the top of his brown eyes, and his black t-shirt and jeans—inappropriate Christmas clothes Mom complained, stuck out against the ugly red sweater she picked out for me, but I loved this picture. (And I even had 2 outs here. Just got rid of the 2nd one though.)
-After waking early the next morning, I hid out in my room, finished a ton of Sudoku puzzles, and then stared at my empty e-mail inbox.
-Her legs stretched out before she rolled over.
I deleted over 50 outs. That’s quite a few. How about you? Do you have an out problem?
Tighten, tighten, tighten your writing. So I’m trying. Another word I looked at in The Proper Way to Say Goodbye is together. Here are a few examples where I deleted the unnecessary ones.
-When I stepped back, our elbows brushed together causing my face to flush. (Hmm, well brushing implies that they touched.)
-I clenched my teeth together. (As opposed to clenching them apart. )
-She clapped her hands together. (Again, can you clap your hands apart?)
-I’d get over my anxiety of seeing a girl, and we’d be sitting in her trendy apartment sipping wine together. (Well yeah, they’re both in the apartment, so they’re together.)
-He matched my pace, and we jogged together a short distance in silence. (Again, they jogging side by side, which would imply together.)
I just didn’t need the togethers in the above sentences. And I saw no reason to keep them in for the voice. So they are… gone!
Anybody else have togetherness problems?
Another unnecessary word I found in my writing was back. I had a TON of them I didn’t need. Here are several examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
-Second floor lounge, back in the east corner.
-I headed back to my dorm.
-My library book sat back at the dorm—I should’ve brought it.
-I shrunk back into the safety of the chair.
-You think I want her scowling face staring back at me all the time?”
None of those backs are necessary, and I don’t feel it’s a word I want to use in Chloe’s voice, so I got rid of over 80 backs. Pretty impressive isn’t it. (Or pathetic, I’m not sure which.)
So watch your backs.
Well is a word many people have problems with. I remember when a friend pointed out I was using too many wells in my early writing days, in a manuscript that is temporarily shelved. I ended up deleting quite a few. Thankfully, I tend to catch myself when I write it now, but I still need to go through and take out the unnecessary ones.
Here are the examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye where I deleted the wells.
-Mom wasn’t a pet person, so we never had any— well except for when Brock brought home those hermit crabs in high school.
-Well, thank you for the help, Chloe.
-Well, I have to get going now.
-Well, don’t worry, she’s much nicer than my mom.
The well just doesn’t do anything for the sentence. It’s totally unnecessary. But well is also a word you may use to establish the voice of a character. I chose Murphy to be the one who uses it in his speech. Then for most of the other people, I deleted it, except in the rare occasion.
Sometimes in my writing I overuse only. Usually when I’m trying to emphasize and idea or word. Here are my examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye, where I deleted the onlys.
-Like I said, he only referred to her as Dent’s daughter
-Sucks cause she’s only nineteen and can’t go to the bars.
-I only went to get a drink.
Another thing I looked at was using only vs. just. Sometimes just sounds better, so Chloe does use it. But otherwise, when either works, I used only for her to distinguish her voice. And just for the others.
-Chloe: Wait, you kissed her. Like after only two dates?
(Previously, it was, “Like after just two dates?”)
-Murphy: They just use Charles when they’re mad.
(Previously, it was, “The only time they use Charles is when they’re mad.”)
So only is a good word to use to differentiate your voices. And make sure you’re not overusing it like I was.