Sunday, July 31, 2022


Today, and without straying into Karen's "Craft" territory, I should like to discuss a useful tactic for when a writer has to edit for length. This also applies to editing for advertisements, where every nanosecond, and every word counts.

Look at every "so", and every "very", and assess --brutally-- whether or you really, truly need them, and whether or not they strengthen or weaken the words around them.

The idea of my "very own" slippers, or "your very own slippers" disturbs me on a visceral level. Who shares their footwear?

The possessive adjective "my" or "your" is sufficient to describe ownership of the slippers. Adding "own" as in "my own slippers" is emphatic, but redundant. The listener, or reader is invited to wonder about other slippers in the household, and whether some slippers are communal. 

Throwing a "very" into the phrase to limit the adjective "own", means that the focus is decidely on the competition within the household for slippers. It is one thing for a child who reaches a milestone in growing up, and is given a room of his/her very own. A room of ones own is a big deal, especially if the youngster previously had to share.

"Own" is an adjective when preceded by a possessive and followed by a noun. Inserting "very" adds information --albeit precious little information-- about "own"; thus "very" is an adverb. The noun "slippers" now has three hangers-on, two adjectives and an adverb.

Think remora. One can have too much of a good thing.

"So" is another pet peeve of mine. It can be an adjective, a pronoun, a conjunction, and more. Of these, its least useful function is as an adverb, in my opinion.  

"So much," is redundant unless the speaker is in front of one, using both hands to demonstrate the yardage (size) of the absent trophy that is being described, for instance as in a fishy lie, "The trout was so big."

If a remedy helps you "so much", try a synonym. "So much" is no better than "a lot" but uses two extra characters.

An exception might be Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories, which you can read here:

In this case, I believe that "so" is a pronoun, and "Just So" could be replaced with "Exactly like that", which would be longer and less efficient... and which makes me think of the large and brilliant British prestidigitator and comedian Tommy Cooper, whose catch phrase was "Just like that", with the "just" a little slurred.

Those episodes don't show it, but I share them anyway, because the late Tommy Cooper's use of English is hilarious.

"Thus" might be more succinct as a synonym for "Just So" but I digress. One of my English professors at Cambridge, Mr. Cornwall, used to speak of the thusness of a word or phrase, in the general sense that the phrase or word in question could not be improved upon.

I will now end abruptly.

All the best,

No comments:

Post a Comment