You’ll Be Very Wise To Avoid Very

Words_of_WisdomI’m very excited about writing this post, so it’s very important that you pay attention.

Aaarrrggghhhhh … my journalism instructor would be all over that statement with her red pencil.

Very is a weak adverb or adjective. Avoid it. Mark Twain advised:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” includes really along with very in a post about words to avoid:

The words “very” or “really” (or any intensifier) are just other ways of increasing the value of a word without adding anything descriptive. You’re also using two words when one would suffice which, unless you’re getting paid by the word, is best to avoid. Instead of saying “very loud,” try “deafening,” “thunderous,” or “piercing.” Not only do they roughly mean the same as “very loud,” but they are much more descriptive.

Urban Dictionary provides an example I recall from journalism class. Avoid using very with unique, which is defined as being the only one of its kind:

This Greek pot is very unique.
Unique is unique — one of a kind. There is only one. How can you get more unique than that?

Katrina was a very disastrous hurricane.
Something that is disastrous is catastrosphic or causing great damage. “Very” adds nothing.


This list gives you 45 words that work better than very. But for a start, consider these examples to help you avoid the weakling very. 

very afraid: terrified  |  very angry: furious  |  very big: immense  |  very clean: spotless  |  very smart: brilliant  |  very dirty: squalid  |  very dry: parched  |  very happy: jubilant  |  very hungry: ravenous  |  very loved: adored  |  very neat: immaculate  |  very risky: perilous  |  very roomy: spacious  |  very tasty: delicious  |  very tired: exhausted  |  very wet: soaked

Very tends to be like great: Both are overused. Be wise and sound smart by heeding this Ruthless Editor’s reminder that there are better choices.

Is there an overused word that gets on your nerves? Please email me about it.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)