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Avoid using “very” in writing

If possible, delete every ‘very’ in your texts. In academic or formal English, it’s considered a low-level word. We can find it in emails, though, as they often imitate conversational English, which is where it comes from.

And in some cases, ‘very’ cannot be used at all, as the adjective is ‘non-gradable’. 

Gradable adjectives, meaning you can add ‘very’ informally: warm, hot, cool, cold

Ungradable adjectives: boiling, freezing

Example of misuse: This furniture is very unique.

Unique means ‘one of a kind’, so ‘very’ is ungrammatical, but can be heard used informally.

Mark Twain has a quote that will make you smile, but which gets to the point:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Or you can do find and replace ‘very’ with a blank in Word.

Very – Which should we delete for style reasons? Which one is wrong grammatically?

  1. It is very difficult to get adequate emergency assistance.
  2. Having dedicated skilful instructional designers is very crucial.  
  3. Focus Group discussions in the drought area were very interesting. (minutes of a meeting)

Answer key

  1. It is very difficult to get adequate emergency assistance.
  2. Having dedicated skilful instructional designers is very crucial. (non-gradable)
  3. Focus Group discussions in the drought area were very interesting. (minutes of a meeting)

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Carol Waites (PhD)
Email:  carolswritingtips@gmail.com

For more writing tips, consult my website:
https://carolswritingtips.com/writingtips/

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Presentation/editing by Christina O’Shaughnessy (editor)
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