Friday, February 13, 2009

Useless words ...

At some point in the near future, I'm going to write an article on transient words and phrases--my name for overused and casually used terms that flare up for two or three years, then fade away.

Why be concerned? You'll date your writing--especially fiction--if you use transient language. Use words and phrases that are really popular (those that writers pass around to show off or make people think they're with it), and people may think you're too derivative. Or, as in the third example below, you'll only be spreading words devoid of real meaning.

A few samples: "frisson," which enjoys extensive overuse in fiction, "leverage" (oh, go ahead and say what you mean; no one will think you're ignorant for using a one-syllable word: "use"), "more bang for the buck" (translation: "we can't think of a definite positive to describe the product"), and the five year-old, consciously-copied "absolutely!" (Regards "absolutely" ... just say "yes!")

You might stop and think when you use "basically," too. "Basically" is basically an empty prefix. It's been around more than a decade, and grows more hollow each and every time it is uttered or written. Listen to people around you, or on TV or radio, when they try to describe something: "Well, basically, I'm shopping for a car." What? Either you're shopping or not--there's no "basically" about it. "Basically, he was shot and killed." Ditto.


Khozyain said...

Good post. I basically like it (ouch, sorry! But you knew it was coming at some point...).

Michael A. Banks said...

Had to be! :)


Anonymous said...

'Basically' drives me up a wall. It is a dumb,useless, throwaway word that --basically --sucks!