Tools – Weasel Word Stripper

The weasel word is your enemy as a writer. It weakens the structure of the story, makes the writer sound uncertain, kicks the reader out of their flow, and/or indicates a hidden error. Here are some weasel words and phrases to beware of.

Sort of, kind of, maybe, possibly, probably, some kind of, tend to… and worst of all, somehow!

Now, please note that like all rules and guidelines, this one can be tampered with if you know what you’re doing. Furthermore, no need to strip these words out of your dialogue. Your characters can be uncertain. But when you’re talking about what happened in the story, the writer should not be.

Example: It was a sort of cloudy day, gray but with beams of sunlight shining through. Better: It was a partially cloudy day…

Example: When Janna walked the dog, she tended to forget to pick up the poop. Better: When Janna walked the dog, she frequently forgot to pick up the poop.

Example: Reginald had long ago concluded that his ex-wife was possibly the most beautiful woman on earth. Better: Just remove ‘possibly’. If you want to indicate that Reginald wasn’t entirely sure of that, you could say ‘his ex-wife was one of the most beautiful’. Possibly is also an adverb, which we’ll talk about in future posts.

But the worst offender is ‘somehow’ and its ilk. If you see that pop up in your fiction, it’s likely to be your subconscious telling you there’s a hole in your plot.

Example: Somehow, Arnold had gotten behind them, found one of their guns, and was holding it on them now.

This probably indicates that the writer doesn’t know how Arnold managed that, and needs to go back and figure it out. And then let the reader know too. You are the boss of your story, the boss of your words. Design it carefully and then be masterful!


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