Alternate Way to Use Very

This week, let’s talk about adjective very. As an editor, I hate the word very. It makes the writing seem childish, amateur, nonprofessional, inexperienced, etc. You get the picture. It’s not for great, concise, or well writing, and if you need to use very (there’s no way around it) then use it once or twice. That’s it.

The word very is to be used to emphasize you are talking about one specific thing or part and not another; not having anything added or extra, according to Merriam-Webster. For instance, The fierce hatred of a very woman — J.M. Barrie is grammatically correct. As an editor I would replace very with another woman, like true. The same with The very thought terrified him, but would replace very with mere.

Words like very, also, and so are overused and can clutter writing, which is why writing concisely (or well), can help overcome those hurdles for readers. Let’s take a step in the reader’s shoes. They have to read a paragraph, decode the words, process the meaning, and summarize what they just read within a minute to two.

Here’s a sample:

Yoga is a very beneficial method of connecting mind, body and spirit. People who practice yoga claim that they feel stronger. They also claim that their minds are clearer. So, they feel that they are more connected to the earth and to other human beings. It seems, then, that yoga can help people in very many ways.

Not a great paragraph and probably wondering what you just read. Here’s a revision:

Yoga benefits people who practice it in many ways (mind, body and soul), but most are interested in yoga’s effect on the body. Yoga can help clear your mind, feel connected with the earth and to other human beings.

The paragraph is easier to read because we took out those clutter words that bogs readers down to process information.

When eliminating very, also, and so, look to see if you could rearrange the sentence structure, combine sentences together, and look for synonyms like very fast (swift), very complete (comprehensive), very expensive (costly), etc.