5 Words that Weaken Your Sentences

Used when needed, these words can be powerful, but when they are used unnecessarily, they can weaken a sentence and undermine the impact the writer wants to deliver.

Identifying these words and testing to see if they are truly necessary is one of the keys to writing powerful sentences.

Some

In general, this determiner means an unspecified amount of something: an object, of people or anything that can be measured or not measured. It’s also used as a pronoun: Some of us left early. The unspecific nature of this word makes it detrimental to sentences when used unnecessarily.

Compare these sentences…

  1. “I want some candy,” said Becky.
  2. “I want candy,” said Becky.
  3. “I want one candy,” said Becky.
  4. “I want your bag of candy,” said Becky.
  5. “I want all the candy in the world,” said Becky.

In this instance, sentences two through five indicate how Becky is feeling and may hint at her personality. Is she indecisive, watching her sugar intake, greedy or unrealistic? By choosing another word or leaving out some altogether, the sentence becomes stronger and reveals more about Becky.

A few more examples of when you can eliminate some

  • Without some additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • Without additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • I enjoy my day when some family come to visit.
  • I enjoy my day when family comes to visit.

Gotta Love the Folks in New Scotland

Here in Nova Scotia (aka New Scotland), we are a some population. We use some in every conversation as if it is a lifeline for our sentences. We’re famous for our some. If you have a character from Nova Scotia, it’s as common for them to say some as it is to make a Timmy’s run or to have bacon and eggs for breakfast, so in this instance, adding a some here and there will make the Nova Scotian’s dialogue authentic. But don’t overuse it. We only do that in real life, not in fiction.

All

This word can be used as a predeterminer, determiner, pronoun, adverb and noun. It doesn’t do all things, but it does many things. Many of us use it to indicate all of something: all the apples, all the people, all the time. If used in the sentence above—“I want all your candy,” said Becky.—then it’s a useful word. It strengthens the sentence. But I see all used in many instances where it is unnecessary and weakens the sentence. I think many writers use it because we use it in speech.

Compare these sentences…

  • He was assaulted by all the typical bad haircut jokes.
  • He was assaulted by the typical bad haircut jokes.
  • I want to tell you how much we all care.
  • I want to tell you how much we care.
  • I don’t want to eat all the same foods as you.
  • I don’t want to eat the same foods as you.

In each case, all can be removed, making the sentence more direct and stronger.

So

It’s short, sweet and is intended to make things so much better but in many cases, it is only clutter. It is important when used as a conjunction—I parked the truck close to the door, so I wouldn’t get wet from the rain.—but if it is simply thrown in without thought, it slows the story and weakens the sentence.

Compare these sentences…

  • We are so happy you are here.
  • We are happy you are here. [OR: We are ecstatic you are here.]
  • I can think of so many reasons why I should eat chocolate.
  • I can think of many reasons why I should eat chocolate.
  • He was so good at entertaining the crowd.
  • He was great at entertaining the crowd.

In the first and third sentence examples, in place of so happy and so good, stronger words were chosen to state exactly what was needed to be said: ecstatic and great. The exact verb or noun for the situation makes for a stronger sentence.

Quite

This is an adverb that indicates absolutely and completely in one instance, but also to a certain degree in another. It’s a word I seldom use, but I see many other writers using it a lot. It feels thrown into a sentence to add emphasis to another word, but often this is unnecessary.

Compare these sentences…

  • He was quite happy to attend the event.
  • He was happy to attend the event
  • She was quite knowledgeable about the city of Dartmouth.
  • She was knowledgeable about the city of Dartmouth.
  • The group had become quite capable of defending themselves against dragons.
  • The group had become capable of defending themselves against dragons.

Possibly

This adverb is used to indicate doubt. If used incorrectly or unnecessarily, it drains the power from the word it modifies.

Compare these sentences…

  • It was possibly the best pizza he had ever tasted.
  • It was the best pizza he had ever tasted.
  • The entertainment was possibly becoming exciting for everyone in attendance.
  • The entertainment was becoming exciting for everyone in attendance.
  • I couldn’t possibly run another lap because of my sprained ankle.
  • I couldn’t run another lap because of my sprained ankle.

By using possibly, it puts the seed of doubt in readers’ minds, making them think it wasn’t the best pizza he had eaten, that everyone wasn’t getting excited and that she might be able to run another lap after all.

In Conclusion

If a word can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, then it is considered unnecessary. Not only will it tighten your prose, it can drastically reduce word count.

There are exceptions to every rule, and there are with these words too. If a character lacks confidence, they may use these words in speech: “I could possibly attend some classes if all subjects weren’t quite so intimidating.” In this case, the dialogue helps paint a picture of the character.

If you’re curious to see if you use these words a lot, search your document. You may be surprised by the number of times they appear.

Some, all, so, quite and possibly are only five words that when used unnecessarily will weaken a sentence. There are many more. When you see one of these words in your writing, remove it and see if the sentence works. If it does, leave it out.

If you found this information helpful, please consider buying me a cup of tea ($1.50) as if we had chatted at a cafe and I shared this with you. [Payment is through PayPal.]

Are you looking for an unbiased, honest evaluation of your writing? Check out First 5,000 Words Evaluation.

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15 thoughts on “5 Words that Weaken Your Sentences

  1. And you’re not alone, tidalscribe. I believe we all use many of these words in the beginning. But we learn as we go. This is what I love about writing: I’m always learning.

    Thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment.

  2. One of the first things I remember being pointed out at writing group was how many quites and rathers we were putting in our writing. Editing my writing is rather like carving a statue, paring it down. Inevitably I remove words not needed and it is always surprising how many somes, sos and wells have crept in.

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