Don’t Make Your Readers Whack Through Weasel Words

Since I waxed eloquently about weasel words last week, I just really thought I should share this very astonishing post. Truly it is just so important that authors really strive to write tightly so that the reader doesn’t just close the book because the writer uses, like, too many weasel words.

As we survey various techniques to the establishment of accomplished prose, we are obliged to contemplate the aphorism that there is no requirement to employ a ten-dollar phrase when a five-cent expression will suffice. What do you opine? Does broad lexis succor prose? Do you discover your reading gratification to be enhanced by immense libretti, or do you favor unpretentious communication?

“I enjoy the occasional need to employ a thesaurus,” Midori said candidly. She changed the topic. “I’m wondering about descriptor tags,” she mused curiously.

“I don’t know,” Knox responded thoughtfully. “Do you really believe they add to the dialogue?” he asked sardonically.

“Maybe?” she wondered doubtfully.

“I would venture a guess that the dialogue itself would give the reader insight as to the character’s motives for speaking,” he speculated with no small degree of self-satisfaction.

“Our readers display wit and insight,” Midori declared. “I’ll wager that they will share with us some of their writing pet peeves.”

“Indeed,” Knox concurred. “We can depend upon their brilliance.”

“Yes!” Midori nodded. “Let’s see what they say.”

Your Turn:

What are your writing pet peeves? Midori and Knox want to know!


23 Responses to Don’t Make Your Readers Whack Through Weasel Words

  1. Brennan S. McPherson February 20, 2020 at 4:50 am #

    Yikes. I could hardly force myself to finish reading this. This may sound ironic, but great post!

  2. Loretta Eidson February 20, 2020 at 6:23 am #

    Haha! I read through your post and wanted to edit. Amazing how much I’ve learned over the years, and still learning.

  3. Melony Teague February 20, 2020 at 6:32 am #

    Oh my goodness, what a great example of what NOT to do. I wanted to edit so bad. Brilliant, thanks Tamela

    • William Snyder, Jr. February 21, 2020 at 12:46 pm #

      Most prose can be edited by the writer. They need to allow it to sit for a few days, perhaps a week or more, then reread it and edit it along the way. I do this. Old newspaper habit.

  4. Kathy in Michigan February 20, 2020 at 6:50 am #

    I have a character who does this, a little sister competing for the same fellow. I admit I have to limit her comments. Big sis is a teacher in the 1890’s.

  5. Maco Stewart February 20, 2020 at 7:04 am #

    That was (sniff) SO BEAUTIFUL! If only I might, with great grace and good fortune, be able to so create!

    I shall tweet this to the skies, and the moon and stars shall smile down upon its Glorious Creators.

  6. Damon J. Gray February 20, 2020 at 7:14 am #

    Such great humor with which to kick off my day. Thanks for the laugh!

  7. Joe Miller February 20, 2020 at 7:22 am #

    Oh yes, he thought with such overflowing glee as he just so thoroughly embraced the superfluency of the weasel words in all of their magnificent and glorious positioning. Like really!!!

  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 20, 2020 at 7:23 am #

    They’re quick and active predators,
    quite noble, made in God’s own truth,
    so let us, please, remove weasels’ fetters
    to words employed that have no use.
    We might behold instead, reluctantly,
    things within the human sphere,
    the things of which we’re never free,
    the things that we, most rightly, fear.
    There are places where words flow
    like water spilled upon the table,
    and through yon window we would go,
    three stories’ fall, if we were but able;
    thus, for words we are not needing,
    why not call them “HR Meeting”?

  9. Sharon K Connell February 20, 2020 at 7:36 am #

    Great lesson here. ROTFLOL

  10. Sara Jane Kehler February 20, 2020 at 7:55 am #

    It’s unfortunate that all these lovely words are so much more fun to write than they are to read.

    And now, I have to go find the article you wrote last week. I’m intrigued…

  11. Lynn Baber February 20, 2020 at 9:07 am #

    Well done! A perfect example of show, don’t tell.
    I’m in the choir wearing “Annoyed” t-shirts when reading weasel dialogue descriptors.

    Another related peeve is fresh in my mind because I just finished a mystery that tempted me to dig out my Annoyed t-shirt: novelists adding description that has nothing to do with the storyline. In this instance, it was using walk-on characters to highlight identity politics positions. Mystery readers catalog every detail as a potential clue. I’m familiar with the writer, so know that she also writes non-fiction on those topics under another name. Cool. But I didn’t buy those books.

    Which doesn’t mean I’m innocent of all peevish practice. I hope not, but hey – you write enough you screw up. Rinse. Revise. Repeat.

    I may be the Lone Ranger here because I write non-fiction and rest my thinker with clever G-rated mysteries. The good ones are gold.

    Thank you for today’s entertainment.

  12. Karen Meyer February 20, 2020 at 9:16 am #

    I’ve been known to correct typos in library books. They are found more and more often in today’s books and it is due to sloppiness. My emails to authors and publishers rarely get a response, much less a thank you.

  13. Norma Brumbaugh February 20, 2020 at 9:37 am #

    I know someone who talks kinda like that. Get to the point, please. This was clever and fun to read because of its cleverness. When words become something to endure rather than bring life, it’s not much fun for the reader. Your example says it all. Good job!

    • C.E.Bailey February 21, 2020 at 11:12 am #

      Totally agree! It can really take me out of the story because it seems like it was placed there more for the author to show-off than it was to enhance the readers experience.

  14. Sam February 20, 2020 at 9:40 am #

    You asked for a peeve: The word ‘had’ in the passive sense. And yet, it’s repeatedly in every bestselling novel I read in the last five years.

  15. Paula Geister February 20, 2020 at 2:36 pm #

    Tamela, I confess, I didn’t finish reading that. The point was well-taken early enough. So many times I’m reminded of Elmore Leonard’s advice to “leave out the parts people skip over.”

    Thanks for humorously reminding us of weasels who weasel in.

  16. Kristen Joy Wilks February 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm #

    Ha ha! Well, it really bothers me when a book or person states that they are feeling nauseous. That means that they are feeling so repulsive that they are likely to make others nauseated. If they say they are feeling nauseated, well they are sick to their stomach, not causing illness in others. My 3 sons have caught my pet peeve and woe to the teen near them who dares to say they are nauseous. They of course say it themselves, on purpose, within my hearing so that they can enjoy my reaction. Pesky boys!

  17. BillHendricks February 20, 2020 at 5:00 pm #

    One of my greatest pet peeves is when a writer begins a sentence (or even worse, an article or book) with the phrase, “Webster defines ________ as. . . .” That’s an absolute no-no! First, I can look up the word in a dictionary myself, so I don’t need the writer to do that work for me. But worse, a statement like that is, in effect, admitting, “I don’t really know what I’m talking about. So to get myself started in this exploration of (whatever topic s/he is writing on), I decided to read a dictionary to even figure out what that means.” Dude, if you have no more authority than that, why should I read what you have to say? Instead, I’d rather have someone begin, “________ means ________, and here’s why, or here’s why that matters, or here’s the implications of that.” If nothing else, a writer should have a position, a point of view, and the confidence of his/her own convictions in stating what s/he has to say.

  18. Martha Rogers February 20, 2020 at 6:23 pm #

    A writer completely takes me out of the story when they begin a sentence having the character perform two actions at the same time, but are impossible to do.

    Sipping her drink, she took a bite of her hamburger and laughed. (I just copied this out of the book I’ve been reading)

    Another pet peeve is the misuse of I and me when the subjective is used as objective. Raises the hackles of this retired English teacher.:)

  19. Len February 21, 2020 at 2:55 pm #

    The word “that”.

  20. Melanie February 25, 2020 at 11:41 pm #

    The misuse of I and me drives me batty, as well, although I hear it more often on television than read it in books. I’ve been reading a series where the male lead ends sentences to his love interest with, “my love,” or “darling” at least twice a page. These are modern novels. Maybe it’s because I’m perpetually single, but I don’t believe men talk like that.

  21. sara March 22, 2020 at 1:27 pm #

    Oh, so this is an example of what not to do. I didn’t know I was suppose to until I reads the comments. Yikes, I have quite the editing to do.

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