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G̶e̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶r̶i̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ Removing Get/Got/Went/Things/Stuff

Weak words create stumbling points and a lack of vivid imagery. As I've mentioned before, I tend to write by the seat of my pants, g̶e̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ purging the idea onto paper and editing extensively afterward.

Ask an author for a list of weak words and you'll g̶e̶t̶ receive a different set each time. The intersection of these lists will likely contain get, got, went, things, and stuff. You will see "to be verbs" listed frequently, however, attempts at their absolute removal will drive you to lunacy. I found Mark Pennington's article helpful, as it describes the nuances well.

I use this list as a guideline . While certain words must be used sparingly, this connotes the existence of legitimate usage. The purpose of writing defines the necessary stringency as well. Essays require more rigor than narrative. An essay must persuade or educate, and weak words will undermine that purpose. A narrative uses natural dialogue and prose with emotional impact; a mindless adherence to excision could harm the story as much as it helps.

I approach my editing by searching out the words and asking myself if I could be more descriptive, more vibrant and alive in the targeted text. If modification creates awkward or unbelievable dialogue, or sabotages a touching moment, I elect to leave it alone.

I'll give you a few examples of changes that I've made based on this advice. Decide for yourself; is the writing improved, unchanged, or worsened?

Before: "It went straight through, leaving a gaping hole and bouncing off the stone wall behind."

After: "It plowed straight through, leaving a gaping hole and bouncing off the stone wall behind."

Before: "The young man turned and got back in step with them as they headed down the hall."

After: "The young man jolted out of his trance and jogged toward the two men as they walked down the hall."

How about the places where I left the text alone, such as in the following dialogue?

“Why do you care? You’ll get married someday and you won’t need me anymore.”

“You’re getting ahead of me again,” he said.

I confess, I experienced improvement at each replacement of 'went'. Get/got remained only in dialogue, as did things and stuff.

For the rest, I may need a little help from editors and fellow writers.

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