When I’m reviewing a copywriter’s work, I’m often offended by one of the worst four-letter expletives in our language: very.
An ‘expletive’ is defined as a word that adds no meaning to a sentence but is used to communicate the strength of a writer’s feeling about something. Really, truly, basically are other words used in the same way.
This V-word litters marketing copy – conduct a very thorough inspection, it’s a very innovative idea, a very catchy introduction. The word lazily bloats sentences with vagueness while the writer thinks they’ve expressed their intended message.
My company’s founder Keith Henshall taught me that every sentence is like a canoe trying to get somewhere – any word that’s not paddling to the canoe’s objective is
just weighing it down.
Here’s the advice I gave a writer recently – replace every ‘very’ in your writing with the word ‘f***ing’. I borrowed it from Mark Twain (but he was a much politer gentleman).
- it’s a
veryf***ing innovative idea
- write a
veryf***ing catchy introduction
- our customers are
veryf***ing difficult process
- a very fast service
Your boss, client or editor will delete the swear words and think you’re an idiot, but your copy will improve instantly.
What should you do instead?
Whenever you reach for a ‘very’, stop and think of another adjective you could use instead of trying to intensify a bland one. Instead of ‘very quick’, you could use rapid. Use a thesaurus.
It may be a very hard or difficult thing to do, but you’ll build a habit with practice. If you’re struggling, look at this list some f***ing useful alternatives.