Sometimes we add words after verbs to help further clarify the meaning we want to convey. For years, I wrote without giving these extra words a thought. And then I was asked a blunt question that made me stop and think: In what other direction might you go?
Rising Up; Rising Down
Let’s look closer at these sentences.
Isla allowed the anger to rise up until it added strength to her muscles.
Before she could rise up, the door was slammed shut and locked.
The question in these instances would be: In what other direction would they rise? A character would never rise down, rise left or rise right. The verb rise indicates up. Adding the word up is redundant and states the direction twice.
The sentences can easily be writing without up.
Isla allowed the anger to rise until it added strength to her muscles.
Before she could rise, the door was slammed shut and locked.
Stood Up; Stood Down; Stood Back
The word up is often used with stood and stand.
Isla stood up and saw three other women sharing her cell.
“You can’t be sure,” said McGuigan, and he stood up, ready to defend himself if necessary.
These sentences can be written without up, and we still have a clear idea of the action.
Isla stood and saw three other women sharing her cell.
“You can’t be sure,” said McGuigan, and he stood, ready to defend himself if necessary.
However, stood and stand are not like rise. At times, a word is needed to clarify the action.
McGuigan stood back and watched Morwen work the lock with a slim piece of metal.
The army was ordered to stand down and wait for the signal.
If the words back and down were removed, it wouldn’t say what the writer wanted to say.
McGuigan stood and watched Morwen work the lock with a slim piece of metal.
The army was ordered to stand and wait for the signal.
These sentences still make sense as stand-alone sentences, but they may not make sense in the context of the story.
Sat Down; Sat Up; Sat Back
Brac and Kiefer sat down next to Elspeth to discuss the attack and their next move.
Isla sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
Bronwyn sat back and enjoyed the stories of his old friends.
Sat can be a stand-alone verb, but if anything more than indicating the character sat down is desired, then another word is needed to clarify the meaning. With these sentences, I would keep up and back, but drop the down.
Brac and Kiefer sat next to Elspeth to discuss the attack and their next move.
Fell Down? Fell Up? Fell Over?
The guard at the gate stumbled forward, then fell down into the wagon rut.
The light dimmed and the human following Isla fell up the stairs.
The ogre laughed so hard, he nearly fell over.
Similar to sat, fell alone in a sentence means only one thing: fell down. Fell means to move downward, usually quickly with no control. If you want to indicate something else, another word is needed: He fell slowly into bed as if he moved in slow motion.
The first sentence can be written without down, and still provide the action I wanted.
The guard at the gate stumbled forward, then fell into the wagon rut.
As for falling up stairs, it sounds illogical—until you do it. In essence, you are moving in a downward direction, but you are going up the stairs. You land without losing a step. You are not falling down the stairs because that would indicate you have lost a few steps in the process. I don’t think I would write falling up the stairs unless it was used in a comical way, but it can be used.
These are examples of only a few words that can be eliminated when the main verb can carry the load. If a sentence says the same thing without them, leave them out.
Next Monday: Bookism: The Silent Threat to Good Writing
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