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?

3 Tips to Edit Your Writing to Avoid a Reader’s “Huh?”

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”  —Mark Twain

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We know exactly what we mean when we write each sentence of our story. We’re surprised when our critique partner or editor doesn’t.

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  • Does your editor often mark your work with “vague,” “awkward,” or “huh?”? click to tweet

Here are 3 tips that will improve the clearness of your writing.

Tip 1. Huh? That Couldn’t Happen.

When we put phrases in the wrong place or leave out words we can say something that’s impossible.

by mensatic
by mensatic

Example: He’d forgotten to tell Alice he’d seen three wild turkeys playing golf the other day.

Turkeys playing golf? Huh?

Be careful in your rewrite or you may create a new problem. For example: He’d forgotten to tell Alice while playing golf the other day he’d seen three wild turkeys.

Golf-hating Alice played golf with him? Huh?

Better Rewrite: Earlier today, he’d forgotten to tell Alice he’d seen three wild turkeys on the golf course the other day.

Watch out for impossible actions in your writing.

Tip 2. Huh? What does “it” or “that” or “her/him” refer to?

Sometimes we use “it” or “that” or a pronoun that could refer to more than one thing or person.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Example: She gaped. Maude had told Alex every detail about her past. Maude’s blabbermouth would someday get her in trouble. That hurt her now.

Huh? What hurt? Maude’s gossip, Maude’s blabbermouth, or Maude’s ending up in trouble? Whose past was it? [She]’s or Maude’s? And Maude’s blabbermouth would get whom in trouble? [She] or Maude? That hurt whom? [She] or maybe Maude through a tarnished reputation?

Better Rewrite: Amy gaped. Maude had told Alex every detail about Amy’s past. Maude’s blabbermouth would someday get Maude in trouble. Now, Maude’s gossip had destroyed Amy’s chances to marry Alex.

A lot of names. But the reader shouldn’t be confused now. We could revamp the paragraph to cut down some of the names.

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  • Watch out for the vague “it,” “that,” or pronoun in your writing. click to tweet

Tip 3. Huh? What did that sentence say?

We pack in several pieces of information and end up with a convoluted sentence.

Example: By reaching across the cement wall, Ziggy grabbed the Tiki torch Mom had put there with the hand she’d burned in last night’s fire lighting up the area with it to expose thieves climbing over it, snagging her sweater in the process.

karizbobariz
karizbobariz

Huh? Who had the burned hand? And did the Tiki torch or the fire light up the area to expose thieves? Did thieves climb over the wall, the fire, or the Tiki torch? Who snagged her sweater?

Better Rewrite: Ziggy eyed the Tiki torch Mom had put near the wall to expose thieves entering the yard. She reached the hand she’d burned in last night’s fire across the cement wall and grabbed the torch, snagging her sweater in the process.

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  • Watch out for convoluted, awkward sentences in your writing. click to tweet

What other tips do you have to help writers keep their writing clear?