Welcome to the WRIT Center blog!

Welcome to our new blog! You can also visit us at www.delta.edu/writingcenter and email us at writingcenter@delta.edu.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Taking out the Fat, Gaining the Muscle

When writing, it’s easy to mindlessly use general, or common words when trying to describe a scene or idea. These words add “dead weight” to our papers and lead to ineffective diction. Luckily though, there are many ways to combat these “dead weight” words! Down below are some of the most common “dead weight” words and how to fix them.
-          Using the word “it” is ineffective because “it” goes undefined and is not specific. Using “it” is an easy way to strip your paper of creativity because it’s a passive word. Instead of using “it,” try being more descriptive.
Example: It made Lauren happy to see her new puppy
Instead say: The moment Lauren laid eyes on her new puppy, her heart brimmed with joy.
-          “Would” is a word that, if not used correctly, can add dead weight to a paper. Using the word “would” can take away the emotion of the scene being described by distancing the author and reader.
Example: After I would get home from work, I would plop on the couch and would ignore the world as I would play video games.
Instead say: After a long day of work, I plopped my tired body on the couch and ignored the world as I played video games.
“There was/were (is/are)”
-         When a sentence starts out with “There are/is/was/were,” it is often not as strong as it could be. Using “there are/is/was/were” can add a passive voice to someone’s writing.
Example: There are thirteen people that need to leave now.
Instead say: Thirteen people need to leave now.
Another example: There is a bear terrorizing the town!
Instead say: The bear is terrorizing the town!

 Avoid using “very, really, and totally”
-         “Very, really, and totally” are seen as lazy words and should be replaced by more useful vocabulary. If you’re having difficulty coming up with better words, use thesaurus.com.
     Example: When Jenna came to school, she was very excited.
Instead say: When Jenna came to school, she was ecstatic.
Example: Kyle was really mad at his mom.
 Instead say: Kyle was livid with his mom.
If you've watched Dead Poet's Society, you know that Robin Williams' character explains it best why we should never use the word very. 

The best way to learn proper writing is by reading good examples of writing. The first paragraph is one with “dead weight” words. The second paragraph is that same story but with more descriptive diction that properly displays the scene described.

It was a very rainy day in downtown Seattle. When it would rain, I would typically take cover in my really small house. It was tiny, but cozy to me. There was a little sparkle to that house that would make me feel very relaxed. As I opened the door, it would squeak. I followed the really small path to my room. There was a place where I would drop my belongings before I would crawl into my bed. It only took a little bit of time before I felt really tired and let my eyes shut. Before I knew it, I was fast asleep to the sound of the very loud rain.

As the skies darkened along Seattle’s downtown horizon, rain began pounding on the pavement. With each drop of rain, I ran faster and faster to take cover in my modest home. Within the cramped walls of that house, a sense of comfort and safety brimmed at the rooftops. My home had a shy radiance about it that brought feelings of gentle relaxation unique to its particular structure. A hushed squeak came from my weathered door as I trekked into the house. Covered in droplets, I made my way through the narrow path to my room. I dropped my belongings in their usual spot before I crawled into my bed. I laid there for only a brief moment before my exhaustion overtook me and my eyes closed without hesitation. Only minutes passed until I was asleep to the beat of the down pour.

As you can see, the second paragraph was more descriptive because it had a stronger word choice. Not only does the second paragraph help keep the reader more interested, the second paragraph helps the reader imagine themselves in the scene being created.