And you thought being unqualified was a bad thing… but when it comes to your writing and the words you’ve chosen, qualifying often does more harm than good.
What’s a qualifier, you ask?
A qualifier is an unnecessary word that dilutes, weakens, or blurs the meaning of your sentence.
Think of it this way: If your character is holding an apple and you need to describe it, it’s either red or it’s not. It isn’t kind of red, or slightly red, or almost red. It might be red with yellow flecks, or a pale red that deepens along the base, or a Granny Smith and therefore bright green.
But almost red? Nearly red? Yes, the reader can visualize it, but the wording is weak.
Here’s another example:
“It felt a little warm outside.”
We talk this way to each other when someone asks about the weather, but in a book? It’s ambiguous and doesn’t state anything concrete. Instead, try writing:
“It was warm outside.” Or a variation on that theme (maybe something that isn’t quite so bland…).
See what I mean about making concrete statements? As soon as the qualifier slips in there, the meaning of your sentence becomes diluted.
Here are some of the most common qualifiers to look out for:
- a little
- kind of
- sort of
- …and so on…
There are others, but once you know what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to pinpoint them and hit that DELETE key!
Exceptions to the rule would be: character dialogue; purposeful speculative statements (ie. on what another character is thinking, doing, etc.).
Are there other qualifiers that you tend to overuse?
I use them all the time… it’s probably one of my worst offenses in first drafts (and I’m willing to bet ‘probably’ is my most overused qualifier, to boot…)!