June 04, 2013

Rules For Writing: Don’t Use “Very”

“Never use the word, 'very.' It is the weakest word in the English language; doesn't mean anything. If you feel the urge of 'very' coming on, just write the word, 'damn,' in the place of 'very.' The editor will strike out the word, 'damn,' and you will have a good sentence.” -William Allen White 
I understand that a lot of authors now-a-days tend to overuse the word “very”, which is something you don’t want to do. The repetition of any word becomes boring, and if you see “very” too much you will get sick of it. “Very” is the type of word that you have to use sparingly and carefully. Sometimes it is an unnecessary word in a sentence. 

It is okay to let your characters use it in their dialogue though because it is a common word. We use the word “very” a lot in our speech. “I was very mad!” Not many people say they were infuriated. “That was when I realized something was very wrong.” “You just had to be there. It was very funny!” And you get the idea . . . But that doesn't mean you can't substitute "very" for a stronger word. For the last example you can use "hilarious" instead.

I still use the word “very” in my writing though, because I can. It is a word and, just as with all the other words in the English language, it is meant to be used, not ignored. And I don’t view “very” as the weakest word either. It is used to bring emphasis and if one little word can intensify what you are saying then it is not weak, it is powerful!

With that said, I don’t use the word “very” willy-nilly. It’s not in every paragraph and certainly not on every page, but it is still there where I want it to be. There are certain moments when I like to use the word “very” because it actually sounds better with it. For example: when my characters make love “slowly, very slowly”. I think that phrase will just make women’s mouths water, and that is all thanks to the word “very”.

Sometimes “very” is the perfect word to use. However, tossing “very” in front of every verb or adjective is overkill. 
TIP: For 45 ways on how to avoid using "very" check out this post from Writers Write.

QUESTION: What is your view of the word “very”? When/how often do you use it in your writing?


  1. When I use the word it's intentional. I think it's one of those words a writer knows she/he is not supposed to use and don't. It's up there with adverbs. And thank you, I will try extremely hard to have a good day. Great reminder, thanks.

  2. "Very" is definitely a word that should be used with intent. I hope you do have a good day, Brenda!

  3. Hi Chrys,

    I think use of the word depends on several things. If it's overused to emphasize the way a character speaks, it's okay. I also think it depends on the perspective of the narrator. If the character would say it, keep it. But then again, as with everything in writing, it depends.

  4. Hello Quanie!

    It certainly does depend on what the writer believes and where it is being used in the writing, which is why I only believe in this rule partially. ;)

    Thank you for your comment!

  5. I don't like to use the word very often. I mean, I don't like to use the word. Also the word just. I just don't think it should be used. I mean, I don't think it should be used. I've actually started a list of word to look for when I edit my writing. Just and Very are two of them on that list. Also 'that'. So 'just', 'very' and 'that' are three words I usually edit out.

    1. Those are three words I also look for in my writing. I have a list too. Actually, if you stick around, next Wednesday I will be posting my Ultimate Editing List. :D

    2. Yes, I will stick around.
      I'm just very glad that I found your blog.
      I'm elated to have found your blog.

    3. Awesome! I'm glad you found it too. :)