In his excellent book on the craft of writing (On Writing), Stephen King presents a diatribe against the unnecessary use of adverbs. He wasn’t as hard on adjectives and I think he should have been. Both are modifiers, which are words and phrases that weaken or even uglifiy what otherwise might be good writing, by adding layers of fat to what was elegant prose. This is certainly not new thinking, yet, lately the use of the word, “so” has grown exponentially as a modifier of the phrase, “Thank You.” It’s no longer adequate to express one’s gratitude to another for anything by simply saying, “thanks,” “thank you,” or even “thank you very much.” It’s come to be expected that a complete “thank you” includes the phrase, “so much,” as in “Thank you, so much.”
On the page the word, “so,” appears innocuous, particularly since it consists of but two letters, but recently it has invaded and cheapened the phrase, “Thank you.” I suspect that “so” initially entered the lexicon as a way to enhance “Thank you,” and/or to take the place of the word “very.”
Part of what bothers me is how much equals “so much?” Is it measured as a percentage of the original Thank you? That would be difficult to quantify, but perhaps not as much, because that original thanks refers to an action done by someone else that engendered the original thanks. Now the word, “so” has become overused to the point where it no longer enhances the original Thank you. And modifying our prose rarely strengthens the text; instead the writer feels the need for a crutch and the result is weakened writing.
Thank you for reading this.
It’s the surprise discovery that ties everything together. It’s the jolt of clarity that I feel in in my core. It’s the suddenly acquired measure of wisdom that will be part of me for the rest of my days. It’s what I hope to find when I read. And it’s why I write.
The greatest Aha Moment that I’ve ever read is Carver’s, “A Small Good Thing.” If you haven’t read it, stop whatever you’re doing and read it. Continue reading
I have upwards of three dozen books on the subject of writing. I buy them, hoping that the key to the Holy Grail will be in its pages and seep from the book into my brain. I’ll read some or even all of the book, then put it down, because the Giants game is coming on, or some other vital event is about to happen and the next time I see the book is when I pull it out from the bottom of a stack of other books that I will also, someday surely read.
Who am I fooling? Myself, of course. The Holy Grail of writing is to Just Write. (Actually it’s Write and Re-write, but you get the idea.) There is little new stuff on how to write, and I’m sure if you’re a writer, you’ve read most of it, so stop reading so many books about writing and write something.
Still there are a few books on writing that are really worth owning AND reading. Continue reading
Someone, I don’t remember who, suggested that I write a memoir. My first thought was that I don’t have the audacity to think that my life is important enough to write such a thing. I mean memoir–ooh,ooh! Still, I’m going to be sixty-one years old in couple of months. That’s right; sixty-one. Sixty-one isn’t that big of a number, but when you multiply sixty-one by three hundred and sixty-five, you get twenty-two thousand plus and that really is a big number. If I had learned how to write when I was six and from then on, kept a journal, I would have written over twenty thousand pages. What I’m trying to say here is that anyone; you, me, or the man in the moon, that is about to turn sixty-one can glean readable stuff out of twenty thousand pages. The upside is that I won’t be able to justify staring at the screen while whining that I can’t think of anything to write. Not with twenty-two thousand days behind me. I guess that’s the downside too.