“Very” is one of those words that editors hate seeing. And we get it, writers; we’re guilty of using it when we can’t think of a better way to say something. Wordsmithing is hard and sometimes our brains just run out of power, and that’s exactly why I’ve put together this blog post. Throw it on your bookmarks bar or your writer’s board on Pinterest; it’s going to be worth your while.
A “Very” Short Background
What is “very,” anyway? It’s an adverb, meaning it qualifies an adjective or verb in relation to time, place, circumstance, manner, etc. We don’t like adverbs. Stephen King once said that the “road to hell is paved with adverbs.” That’s some strong language, but it’s a good start for the point I’m about to make.
Adverbs are (usually) lazy, and there’s probably a better word or phrase to use. Words like “very” aren’t effective as they don’t help to paint a clear picture. Here’s an example:
With an adverb: The lion was very hungry.
With the adverb replaced: The lion was ravenous.
If you were to just delete the adverb “very,” you’d have a weak sentence. “The lion was hungry.” So what? That doesn’t tell your reader much of anything. But when you replace “very hungry” with a strong word like “ravenous,” your readers will sense the urgency and potential danger behind that lion’s hunger.
In other words, use your words wisely! Don’t use weak adverbs and phrases when you can use a single, strong phrase to add some punch to your writing.
The Shit List
Now that you know why “very” sucks, it’s time to replace that yucky adverb. Making that small change will up your writing game whether you’re writing blog posts, college papers, or an epic novel. I’ve created a list of 36 “very” phrases to avoid and two to three replacements for each.
This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a great place to start. Remember when I mentioned bookmarking the page or saving this post to Pinterest? Now’s your chance!
|very afraid||terrified; petrified||very hungry||famished; ravenous|
|very angry||furious; enraged; incensed||very large||colossal; monumental|
|very bad||atrocious; wicked; savage||very old||ancient; ramshackle; elderly|
|very beautiful||exquisite; alluring||very poor||destitute; penniless|
|very big||immense; gargantuan||very quiet||silent; hushed; tranquil|
|very bright||dazzling; brilliant||very risky||perilous; precarious|
|very capable||accomplished; adept||very rude||vulgar; crude; obscene|
|very clean||spotless; unpolluted||very serious||solemn; somber; grim|
|very clever||brilliant; shrewd; astute||very small||tiny; compact; minuscule|
|very cold||freezing; frigid||very strong||unyielding; vigorous; potent|
|very dirty||squalid; grubby; soiled||very stupid||idiotic; dense; vacuous|
|very dry||parched; arid||very tasty||delicious; luscious; delectable|
|very eager||keen; ambitious||very thin||gaunt; haggard; emaciated|
|very fast||quick; rapid; swift||very tired||exhausted; fatigued; zonked|
|very fierce||ferocious; vicious; relentless||very ugly||hideous; repulsive; vile|
|very good||superb; magnificent; fabulous||very valuable||precious; priceless|
|very happy||jubilant; jovial; delighted||very weak||feeble; delicate; decrepit|
|very hot||scalding; balmy; blistering||very worried||anxious; perturbed|