Home : Writing is Design: Boring Words & Generic Descriptions – Not Nice!

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Writing is Design: Boring Words & Generic Descriptions – Not Nice! — 10 Comments

  1. Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I wasn’t entirely certain of what “generic” writing was. Therefore, I figured I’d search the internet to get some answers. I’m glad that I came across your site. You have definitely clarified my confusion. I have now found out that I am guilty of doing some generic writing. Thanks to you, I will be more aware when I am using it in my future writing.

  2. This is great…

    I am at fault of using generic words and phrases way too excessively, as I write non-fiction, and mainly in a guide-like style (=

    Thanks for the great advice!

    – Liron

  3. Thanks Dave. I liked this article. Coincidentally, I grew up in the town just west of San Bernardino. I like all the points you made and agree with them. I’d been struggling a little with Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing some of which seem a little hard to stick to religiously.

    1. Never open a book with weather.
    2. Avoid prologues.
    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
    4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
    5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
    6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
    9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
    10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

    My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
    ― Elmore Leonard

    I think your article helps temper that a little. Thanks.

  4. This article is excellent! I was told that the word “said” was pretty much invisible to the reader and was exceptable to use when writing dialog, but I didn’t like the repetition or the way the text read, so I sought out similar words to replace “said”. Fortunately, very early in my writing career, I was given a list of 100 different ways to to say “said”, and now I only use the word if I have to. I can put my hands on that list, I’ll re-post it in this forum. This article is another wonderful tool to assist my writing style, which is pretty flowery to start with.

  5. “care­ful and mature assess­ments”

    You seem to suggest that we’ll be thinking about our writing. Interesting, interesting.

    Banish Boring Words looks marvy. Since I finally started work on my second light mystery, this is the right tool at the right time.

  6. Interesting – Mills and Boon has a lot to answer for! As for ‘he said’ – ‘she said’ – no need for synonyms just sprinkle it with helpful visualisations ”I love you!’ her lips curled up affectionately’. Get your inner camera going, even if it’s corny, ‘cos it all helps the reader get into the scene.
    I have a real bee in my bonnet about repetitive expressions or using the same word too much, too soon as well. I’ve kind of trained myself not to do it but sometimes it’s really hard (really!) to stop yourself, especially with dialogue because with that I also have this pressing urge to ‘keep it real(ly)’.

    Another great tutorial Dave!

  7. You’re right – utterly predictable adjectives and adverbs that add nothing to meaning are a waste of space. It’s all about picking the best word for the purpose to convey your meaning (including emotions etc).

    But a word of caution – many years ago I read a Mills and Boon that I’ve never forgotten. The author had apparently been told that the word “said” should be avoided. At all costs. And so she did – every page had an array of alternatives, and I’ll leave you to imagine them as she rarely used the same one twice. It was one of the most annoying things I’ve ever tried to read. So avoiding the obvious can go too far.

    • Your point is a good one and the subject of a future article. I like to avoid using “said,” but certainly not at all costs. Moreover, the way to do it is not to compile and cycle through a list of synonyms.

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