I’m giving the gals, particularly ever-enthusiastic Rey, a break from posting. Given I haven’t touched upon editing recently, maybe it’s time to do so again.
In my editing travels, I’ve discovered that “about” and “almost” are two frequently overused words. New writers, in particular, seem to adore them. An abundance of these two words, however, is not always in the story’s—or writer’s—favor.
Both certainly serve viable purposes, but they can also be weak words that lend themselves to a flat storyline.
About (adverb, preposition)
It’s about time you showed up. ♠ designates anger or impatience
He was about ready to explode. ♠ doesn’t add anything
The story is about a teacher and his class. ♠ yes, okay, doable
The childhood story reveals how a well-loved teacher encourages his keen, young students. ♠ a little more dynamic . . . maybe?
I’ve almost had it with him. ♠ designates anger or impatience
Jason was almost scared. ♠ was he or wasn’t he?
It’s almost noon. ♠ okay, but stating it’s five minutes before noon is more specific
The thief wavered and almost climbed back down. ♠ did he or didn’t he? (hopefully, the next sentence/paragraph will provide more information)
The detective shot the culprit in the head; he died almost instantly. ♠ the suggestion is he lingered (perhaps something [eventful] transpired in that second or two?)
An assessing ear helps: yours. Read each sentence aloud. Listen. Attentively. Do they work—are they stronger or weaker for adding “about” or “almost”? Would they keep the reader interested? Or might they create a “zzzzz” effect?
She was almost fearful of what might happen. ♠ ech
She had a fearful look on her face. ♠ okay, but not very dynamic
Fear flickered in her sapphire-blue eyes. ♠ more descriptive, more visual
Words make [and sometimes break] your writing. Be specific. Be detailed, but don’t go overboard. Take a simple sentence and build on it. A high-rise is fine; there’s no need to go for a skyscraper.
♠ Detective Smith looked up at her partner and almost smiled when he was about to pass her a coffee.
♠ Detective Smith smiled cheerfully as she accepted the mug of steaming coffee from her chuckling partner.
♠ Detective Smith’s fern-green eyes glistened as a cheerful smile pulled at her glossy lips; she accepted the huge mug of steaming Kona coffee from her grinning partner, Jack Blake.
♠ A cheerful smile played upon young Detective Smith’s sensual . . .
. . . and on it goes. You determine how descriptive you want to be.
Envision your story, characters, and events. Paint a vivid picture. Make the action come alive. Don’t just reel those readers in . . . yank them!
As said, “about” and “almost” serve their purpose, but you have to recognize when they do and when they simply serve as unnecessary [snoozy] padding.
Martyn was about to learn what the impact would be. ♠ Martyn listened intently to hear what the impact would be. ♠ Martyn perused the multi-paged report to ascertain what the financial impact would be.
Helena took note at the way everyone was seated, almost confused at the seating arrangements. ♠ Confused, Helena observed how everyone was seated at the bare dining table. Who’d decided that?
It’s not about almost accomplishing an outcome; it’s making it happen. You can do it. It’s merely a matter of application mixed with perseverance and determination. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day . . . great writing takes time to realize.
It’s almost the weekend and I’m almost certain you’re about to have an awesome one. I certainly almost am. Cheers.