40 Ways to Strengthen Your Writing and Avoid a “Very” Weak Word

Writer’s often hear a simple, yet vitally important, piece of advice:

Never use the word, ‘very.’ It is the weakest word in the English language; doesn’t mean anything. If you feel the urge of ‘very’ coming on, just write the word, ‘damn,’ in the place of ‘very.’ The editor will strike out the word, ‘damn,’ and you will have a good sentence.

William Allen White

“Very” often serves as a go-to word for many, but it simply leaves writing flat. Good writing draws the reader in and creates the writer’s world in the reader’s imagination. People imagine things with various differences, but when an author really paints a perfect picture, it helps readers to better “see” what the author “saw” when drafting the novel or poem. Compare the following three descriptions of the same scene:

1. Vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges blew very slowly across the sidewalk.

2. Vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges blew lazily across the sidewalk.

In this example, the idea is the same, but the presentation stands stronger because the word is stronger. As an intensifier, very is a modifier that provides no real meaning except to enhance or add force to the words that it modifies. Simply put, it’s lazy filler. Admit it: it’s easier to say something is very tall instead of thinking of a more descriptive word (such as towering) or thinking creatively (maybe using a metaphor or simile?). Shortcuts don’t always breed success, however, and a good writer understands that readers desire substance, thought, and ingenuity.

The next time you find yourself writing that damn word very, sit back and reconsider. The English language overflows with synonyms for the simple word you chose. That’s what makes writing so wonderful: the only limit is your imagination. Be creative! If you find yourself stuck, try one of the 50 very good  excellent replacements below.

very bad Awful Atrocious
very cold Frigid Freezing
very wet Drenched Soggy
very expensive Costly Pricey
very sad Depressed Melancholy
very fun Entertaining Delightful
very happy Ecstatic Pleased
very cute Adorable Precious
very hot Sizzling Suffocating
very painful Agonizing Excruiciating
very tired Exhausted Pooped
very comfortable Cozy Snug
very boring Monotonous Tiresome
very bright Radiant Vivid
very dull Dim Witless
very dark Murky Somber
very clean Immaculate Unblemished
very deep Profound Fathomless
very young Youthful Juvenile
very late Belated Delayed
very tall Lanky Towering
very short Condensed Abbreviated
very small Minuscule Petite
very big Gigantic Substantial
very hairy Fuzzy Bewhiskered
very shiny Sparkling Lustrous
very calm Harmonious Serene
very angry Furious Enraged
very dry Arid Parched
very long Elongated Stretched
very gentle Amiable Tame
very harsh Bitter Coarse
very loud Roaring Boisterous
very quiet Muted Hushed
very nasty Noxious Vulgar
very good Favorable Pleasing
very smelly Fetid Rancid
very bloody Grisly Crimson
very thirsty Parched Droughty
very hungry Ravenous Starved

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