The Anti-Word: Very

Don’t ask me why or how, but until I became acquainted with spell-check at the age of 16, I misspelled “very” every time. The first writing assignment I ever had was to write a five-line thank you note. My teacher handed it back with big, glaring, red-pen circles around the same word on each line. “Very,” apparently, didn’t have two “r”s. I was supposed to add less to a word that meant more, and it didn’t make the slightest sense. As a six year old in the first grade, I had just met my personal nemesis. It would take about 10 years and copious amounts of red-pen circles to get the proper spelling of “very” straight in my head. By that time, I just flat-out detested it.

No word in my writing has been so consistently overused, so consumptive of my editing hours. Only four little letters, “very” should be sweet, simple, and useful. Instead, it’s nauseatingly slimy, slipping unwanted into sentence after sentence. It scatters itself liberally through my paragraphs like all those handfuls of nuts and raisins my father insisted on adding to perfectly good chocolate chip cookie dough. I spent far too much time picking all the nuts and raisins out of those cookies to have any affection left for overdone “fruit-and-nut” sweets, and I’ve spent far too many hours editing and re-editing “very” out of my writing to care for it much either.

“Very” is weak. It needs to go. It’s a “modifier,” a parasite. It means nothing without the words around it, but when do those words need it? Never. There is always a stronger, richer word to be found: intensely, extremely, extraordinarily, exceedingly. If you’re going to make friends with a parasite, or use a modifier for that matter, at least make it an interesting one. Besides, if you don’t use verry too often, you can’t spell it wrong.... Right?

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