Sunday, September 8, 2013

Getting Rid of Trite Phrases

Most of the books I've read recently have two phrases I'd like to remove from the English language. One is "...somehow managed..." as in "He somehow managed to get out of the cave." This provides no image for the reader. Compare with "He crawled out of the cave." The reader can visualize a male person on hands and knees making slow progress through a tight space. A simple example but more effective.

The other phrase is "...seen better days..." Whether it's clothes, cars, shoes, houses, or a multitude of other objects that wear, fade, scuff, fall down, or deteriorate, they all end up bearing this generic description. Choose a specific characteristic or two and show what's wrong. "Not only did the fence require a fresh coat of paint, a half-dozen missing rails needed to be replaced."

When you complete a manuscript, use Find/Replace to delete and rewrite these phrases.

1 comment:

Glenda C. Beall said...

Right, Pat. I teach my students to use specifics. So much of the story is in the details, as long as the best details are told. No long passages of description of a person or place.But vague phrases as you mention are a waste of words and space.