Watch for the Word Some in Your Story

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In my readings, I’ve noticed many unnecessary occurrences of the word some. I have to ferret out that sneaky word from my drafts. But I don’t delete all of them. Sometimes some is the correct word.

Where the word some works.

Example

> “Did you read all of the book?”

   “I read some of it.”

Although some works, it’s a vague word here. If how much of the book read is important to the story, a more specific word is better.

Suppose the person asking is a contest organizer talking to a procrastinating judge. The organizer will want to know how many pages out of the total number of pages the judge has read. The judge would know that’s what the organizer is seeking.

But suppose the person asking is a mother talking to a teen who needs to complete a book report. Some would be appropriate for an evading teen. The next dialogue statement from the mother might be:

“Exactly how many pages have you read?”

Where some doesn’t work well.

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Example

> Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in some numbers.

Some isn’t necessary.

< Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in numbers.

This is more concise and punchier.

Example

> I wish you’d write some more tips on your blog.

Does the speaker want the blogger to write more tips, or does the speaker wish to limit the number to a few more tips. Probably the former. Some isn’t necessary.

< I wish you’d write more tips on your blog.

Example

> Jerry poked some ruffles on her sleeve.

This sounds like Jerry singled out particular ruffles to poke.

< He poked the ruffles on her sleeve.

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Example

< They played some tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Some is unnecessary or, if necessary, is imprecise.

> We played tennis before getting ready for dinner.

We played two sets of tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Example

> She’d softened her attitude some toward him and given him hope.

Some used for degrees is vague and doesn’t add to the meaning of this sentence. It causes wordiness. The word softened already assumes a degree compared to changed her attitude.

< She’d softened her attitude toward him and given him hope.

Example

> We have some exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

This sounds like the parents have only a part of the exciting new that they could have. Remove some, and the excitement of the statement rises.

We have exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

As in the last example, some becomes a weasel word, sucking the life out of adjacent words. Some sucked the life out of exciting.

Watch for the word some; it can be vague and unnecessary. Click to tweet.

What are other vague, unnecessary words?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Don’t Detail Every Movement Your Story Characters Make

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Try this exercise and see if you can improve the example below that over details the movements of the characters. You’ll replace movements with fewer words or delete them. Have fun.

First, read the detailed paragraph.

The Passage Loaded With Details

Dan gripped the handles of the wheelbarrow full of seedlings, lifted them up, and pushed the wheelbarrow to the straw bale garden. Katherine plodded her feet behind him carrying a trowel in her left hand, wire cutters in her right hand, and a box of seed packets under one arm. They would plant in an hour what most farmers planted in a day. He’d prove to the local farmers he wasn’t crazy.

Katherine pinched the hook on the door between her thumb and forefinger and pulled it out of the eye on the jamb of their fenced enclosure. Once inside, they reached for their seedlings from the wheelbarrow and the seed packets from the box and set them at the base of the forty fertilized bales according to Dan’s planting diagram.

As Joe Brown passed in his truck, he shifted down the gears, stuck his arm out the window, and flapped his hand. “You think those hay bales will grow anything, Dan?”

Dan lifted his torso until his back was vertical. “Straw bales, Joe. Hay bales won’t work.”

Joe raised his thumb on his fist and his chin moved up and down as he laughed and drove on.

Dan poured a thin layer of potting mix from the bag onto the tops of the bales for the seeds and smoothed it out with his gloved hand. “We’ll never live this endeavor down if the seeds don’t sprout and the seedlings don’t bear vegetables.”

Problem Movements

Next, see what you can do with the following movements to make the excerpt more concise.

  • getting the wheelbarrow to the garden
  • Katherine’s walking
  • carrying items
  • opening the garden door
  • putting the seedlings and packets at the base of bales
  • slowing the truck
  • Joe waving
  • Dan straightening
  • Joe performing a thumbs up
  • Joe laughing
  • getting the potting mix on the bales

An Improved Passage

Dan maneuvered the wheelbarrow full of potted seedlings to the straw bale garden. Katherine strode behind him armed with a trowel, wire cutters, and a box of seed packets. They would plant in an hour what most farmers planted in a day. He’d prove to the local farmers he wasn’t crazy.

Katherine unhooked the door to their fenced enclosure. Once inside, they placed their seedlings and seed packets at the base of the forty fertilized bales according to Dan’s planting diagram.

As Joe Brown passed, he slowed his truck and waved. “You think those hay bales will grow anything, Dan?”

Dan straightened. “Straw bales, Joe. Hay bales won’t work.”

Joe gave him a thumbs up and guffawed as he drove on.

Dan spread a thin layer of potting mix on the tops of the bales to be seeded. “We’ll never live this endeavor down if the seeds don’t sprout and the seedlings don’t bear vegetables.”

A short exercise to make characters’ movements concise. Click to tweet.

I invite you to include your rewrite in the comments.

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.