words / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #39: Get Rid of Qualifiers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Clear out qualifiers.We are used to using words that minimize our commitment to one side or the other, give wiggle room should we need it. Don’t do that any more! Exorcise it from your writing!

What am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • She was pretty sure
  • They were almost there
  • He was quite certain
  • It was almost 2pm
  • It was slightly colder than yesterday
  • The man appeared to pause
  • She seemed to beckon him

Take a stand one way or the other. Your reader wants to see you as the authority, not some wishy-washy wanna-be author. Commit. It feels good.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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11 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #39: Get Rid of Qualifiers

  1. Haha good one! I am so bad for doing this. I think it is a very English habit. I especially enjoy using “rather”, “almost”, “certainly”… Thanks for the reminder, committing to a position shows people you know your own mind. And I know I admire people who can do that 😉


  2. Pingback: Suggestions for Writers when Contacting Amazon Reviewers

    • It gives us wiggle room. And in a digital world where you can’t read body language, it’s not surprising we don’t want to take a firm stand without benefit of seeing our listener is about to implode.

      At least, that’s my take on it (I hope I haven’t annoyed you!)


  3. I’m pretty sure that I almost always include slightly more of these words than I should. It quite seems to me that I’ve often appeared to be wishy-washy when what I really almost always strive for is that in retrospect I’ve seemed confident about my writing.
    Yeah, like that. And the sad thing is that I’ve often written in these mushy terms. Ugh. Thanks for the reminder. Another for the Save and Digest file. One way or another, you’re helping me clean up my act – er, my writing.


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