Ditching the “Very”: The Diversity of Language (Quote of the Day)

I have literally zero minutes today, so here’s a short snippet of wisdom from Mark Twain. Language is vast, with a multitude of beautiful facets to it. Don’t stoop to ‘very’ just because it’s there and it’s easy. Have some dignity! Reach a little. If you must have something, try “extremely,” “undeniably,” or “indubitably”—or here’s a thought: allow whatever word your “very” would precede to stand alone. Most words can do their own fighting and don’t need a “very” to back them up. Give your language a chance to shine!

Today’s prompt: The quote is the prompt! Write a short story on a subject of your choosing, following Mark Twain’s advice. 

Happy Writing!



5 thoughts on “Ditching the “Very”: The Diversity of Language (Quote of the Day)

    • Believe me, I’ve certainly used “very” in writing before. However, I think you can become too dependent on the word “very” if you’re not careful. It’s good to mix it up and try more sophisticated adverbs!

      On one point I do concede in this matter however: in dialogue or in an informal, first-person narrative, “very” has an unshakeable place. It’s natural to have normal people saying “very” because–let’s be honest–we ALL use that word, and most of us use it often.


  1. I love this graphic!

    The literary world attributes le mot juste, or “the exact word,” to 19th-century author Gustave Flaubert. “All talent for writing consists, after all, of nothing more than choosing words. It’s precision that gives writing power.”

    Nouns and verbs are the workhorses. Used selectively, modifiers strengthen your copy. However, overplaying adjectives and adverbs weakens a sentence.

    ; ) You “have zero minutes today.” No need for “literally.”

    Good post.


    • I agree with you in large part, though I think that adjectives and adverbs have the most important role in tone–and tone is largely what separates a novel from an instruction manual.

      For example: “I have zero minutes today” carries a different sound than “I have literally zero minutes today.” Amongst my peers (at least in the area in which I live and on the internet), the word “literally” is often used hyperbolically and comically, so here it is intended to be read in “that” tone. Would I ever have written that in a formal paper? Certainly not! However, in a blog, where the tone is typically light and conversational, this usage is acceptable.

      I must say that generally I am a fan of precise language. Stories are so often bogged down by a multitude of unnecessary adjectives!

      Oh, and I love Gustave Flaubert. ;)


  2. I agree! I have a draft stage where I eliminate unnecessary words, such as very, so, just, then, etc. I find I often lose a good chunk of my word count from this culling, but the writing is stronger as a result. Thanks for an inspirational post and writing prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

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