I have a long list of words that I try to get out of my writing when I am revising. They are the junk words that clog up any first draft. But one bothers me more than all the rest put together. It seems like an innocuous word at first, almost like it belongs there.
The word is way.
What’s so bad about way? Well, it’s all in the way that you use it. (Ugh! Doesn’t it look disgusting sitting there in that last sentence, wasting valuable space?)
It almost always takes up valuable space where a more interesting, powerful word should be. Take this sentence, for example:
Joseph made his way to the store.
There is nothing here for your readers to imagine. You are just giving them information while missing an opportunity to paint a mental picture. HOW did Joseph make his way to the store? Did he run? Did he crawl? Did he saunter? Did he skip, dance, or lobster crawl to the store? Way offers nothing in the way (yuck) of details. Here’s another one:
Joanie loved the way that Chachi looked at her.
Other than the sentence being an odd callback to a Happy Days spin-off that most people have (rightfully) forgotten about, the sentence works alright as it is. But it could work so much better. That way is in there mucking things up again. We’re completely missing the how of the look. How does he look at her? Is it a smoldering look? Playful? Serious? Sarcastic?
Way always stands in the way (dammit) of a better word or description.
When I’m rough drafting, I don’t worry about way. I let it clutter up my writing any way (gross) that it wants. But, when I’m revising, I hunt them all down and kill them. My writing is better after I do it, and I have a feeling that you’ll find yours working better, too.
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