4 Problems with the Verb Go – Going, Going—Gone

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Watch out for these four wordy expressions using the verb go. Use your search-and-find option to uncover these phrases in you story and revise the sentences.

1. “[Am, Was, Were] Going To”

Example 1

Diana didn’t know how she was going to tell Paul she’d lost her car keys.

Better:

> Diana didn’t how to tell Paul she’d lost her car keys.

image byAnnaKovalchuk

Example 2

He was going to hit a home run in the next inning.

Better:

> He would hit a home run in the next inning.

> He’d hit a home run in the next inning.

Example 3

I am going to go find Mark before it’s too late.

Possibilities:

> I’ll search for Mark before it’s too late.

Be careful. This may not mean quite the same thing as the original, which implies she’ll search until she finds Mark.

> I’ll find Mark before it’s too late.

This also may not express the original meaning. It could mean she’s sure she’ll find Mark before it’s too late.

> I’ll drive the Mustang around the city and find Mark before it’s too late.

2. “Go Get”

image by analogicus

Steve headed for the door. “I’ll go get the boat.”

Possibilities:

> Steve headed for the door. “I’ll retrieve the boat.”

For a guy who says, “go get,” retrieve sounds too formal.

> Steve headed for the door. “I’ll get the boat.”

This is less wordy and sounds like something Steve would say. It’s more important for dialogue to reflect the character’s personality than to be a stronger word.

If “go get” was written in a narrative, (He went and got the boat.) retrieve might work better. (He retrieved the boat.)

3. “Was Gone”

Example 1

Cam said his good-byes and was gone.

Better:

> Cam said his good-byes and left.

Example 2

image by LoggaWiggler

Petra’s eyelids closed, and he was gone.*

For death, “was gone” softens the event, but if you want the sentence to be less wordy and the reader to experience the harsh reality, use died.

Possibilities

> Petra’s eyelids closed, and he died.*

> Petra’s eyelids closed and he died.*

Omitting the comma on such a short sentence is acceptable and may make the death sound more immediate.

Better:

> Petra closed his eyes and died.*

I prefer this concise option.

4. “Was Going”

Example 1

Jess was going around the curve too fast.

“Was going” can work if the story is written in past tense and the writer wants the action to reflect what’s happening now.

Other Possibilities:

> Jess went around the curve too fast.

> Jess steered into the curve too fast.

> Jess approached the curve too fast.

These sentences have slightly different meanings.

Example 2

Bill was going for the rest of the supplies.

Other Possibilities:

> Bill went for the rest of the supplies.

> Bill had gone for the rest of the supplies.

> Bill left to collect the rest of the supplies.

Here “was going” is vague. Depending on the meaning, the other possibilities are better.

What other problems have you seen in writers using the verb go?

*The camel is actually asleep.

Squash These Wordy Phrases

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

Try this exercise and see if you can make the example below more concise by substituting a word for wordy phrases. Have fun.

Passage With Wordy Phrases

Greg went inside of the house. He didn’t know where Alice had gone to, but the fact of the matter was that he was unsure he wanted to marry her. He’d looked for every trace of dirt from her past, but he’d found only a couple of small infringements. From all of her stories about her past, she seemed true to her word, and a lot of the gossip about her had turned out to be untrue.

Under the circumstances in which he’d met her, he wasn’t cognizant of her doing anything wrong. But with her making use of his pin number for the ATM, it was time to make a change, especially since there was still time to make things right.

Maybe he’d choose one of the less expensive private eyes to look into a period of years in her past—if the research done by the private eye could be done in plenty of time to call off the wedding.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

He walked to two feet past the other side of the sofa, then stopped and made a decision to break things off with her.

When the doorbell rang, he strode in the direction of the door. From the window of the living room, he saw a rent-a-truck. Curious, he opened the door. Alice stood on the other side of the threshold, looking angry. He wasn’t able to figure out why she was so mad or had driven a rent-a-truck.

She handed him his ATM card. “You don’t trust me. The wedding is off.”

Wordy Phrases

See what you can do with the following phrases to make the excerpt more concise.

  • inside of
  • gone to
  • the fact of the matter
  • for every trace of
  • a couple of
  • from all of
  • true to her word
  • A lot of
  • turned out to be
  • under the circumstances in which
  • wasn’t cognizant of
  • call off
  • with her making use of
  • for the ATM
  • it was time to make
  • there was still time
  • one of the
  • look into
  • a period of years in
  • done by
  • plenty of
  • to two feet past the other side of
  • made a decision
  • things off with
  • in the direction of
  • of the
  • on the other side of
  • looking angry
  • wasn’t able to
  • figure out
  • so mad

An Improved Passage

Greg went inside the house. He didn’t know where Alice had gone, but now he was unsure he wanted to marry her. He’d combed her past for dirt, but he’d found only two small infringements. From her stories about her past, she seemed honest, and much gossip about her proved untrue.

image by peltierclem

When he’d met her, he didn’t know she’d done anything wrong. But her using his ATM pin number forced him to reconsider, especially since he had time to make things right.

Maybe he’d choose an inexpensive private eye to investigate her past—if his research could be done in time to cancel the wedding.

He walked two feet past the sofa, then stopped and decided to end their relationship.

The doorbell rang. He strode toward the door. From the living room window, he saw a rent-a-truck. Curious, he opened the door. Alice stood on the porch scowling. He couldn’t understand why she was angry or had driven a rent-a-truck.

She handed him his ATM card. “You don’t trust me. The wedding is off.”

A short exercise to reduce wordy phrases. 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.