Tag Archives: Stephen King

Fat Prose

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.

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Highway to Hell

In his book On Writing, Stephen King famously said, ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ I happened to hear someone invoke this dictum on a recent occasion due to the use of a single adverb in a sentence someone else had written, the use of which she found objectionable. This person then went on to further invoke Stephen King’s equally famous metaphor comparing adverbs to dandelions overtaking a lawn and turning it into an unsightly mess.

So with all that in mind, let’s have a little pop quiz. Please identify the following three (3) examples:

1) ‘Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.’

2) ‘So we beat on, boats against a current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’

3) ‘And now, when Danforth and I saw the freshly glistening and reflectively iridescent black slime which clung thickly to those headless bodies and stank obscenely with that new, unknown odor whose cause only a diseased fancy could envisage — clung to those bodies and sparkled less voluminously on a smooth part of the accursedly resculptured wall in a series of grouped dots — we understood the quality of cosmic fear to its uttermost depths.’

O.K. Time’s up. Pencils down, please. The answers are as follows: Continue reading

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