by Valerie Ipson
We love modifiers...and what's not to love? They make flowers beautiful. They make mountains majestic. They make chocolate delicious...oops, no chocolate in the picture.
Anyway, I'm here to tell you via Steve Wilbers' Chapter 12 that we need to be careful, and a little wary of the mighty modifier.
Try these phrases from Mastering the Craft:
very excellent writer
See how the first word of each can be deleted without losing any of the meaning? We use these in speech all the time just out of habit, but in our writing we need to cut, cut, cut. Only use modifiers that add meaning.
Exercise #1 (on page 66 of MTC) says to open [your manuscript] and search "end result." How many times does it appear and how many times would "result" be the better choice?
EDITING TIP: Try this exercise with other common modifier redundancies such as those found on the list above. If an editor is telling you to cut a few thousand words, this is an easy place to start.
TAMARA: These phrases are like optical illusions. When I read them in a list form they jump off the page at me--so obvious! But when they are hard at work in my writing, I read right over them, hardly able to notice they are doing double duty!! Good idea to do a search to take them out of context.
PEGGY: It's never good when you take something out of context. :-) It would be truly great if you could remove words from text you wrote, aiming for a simple understatement of all that is absolutely necessary. At least I think that's the general consensus. I love this lesson. It's a lot of work to clean up our writing.