Word Modifiers: Friends and Foes?

Word modifiers are easy to use since people use them in everyday conversation. When I am going back through my rough drafts, I find my paper sprinkled with “just” and the “ly” adverbs.These are only (see what I did?)  a few examples.  I am not completely (oops) against using word modifiers, just (hmm) not all the time. They have their place. What can a writer do to replace or prevent using word modifiers?

A lot of the time, word modifiers can be omitted from the content without taking away from the effect or the idea being portrayed in the sentence. If I said:  “Kimmy completely thought Jasper was being selfish for not sharing his pie,” I can do without the modifier “completely” because it does nothing for the sentence. Try reading the sentence without the modifier and see if it holds the same impact. If I replaced “completely” with a description of how Kimmy was feeling or her action, then the sentence would have more impact. For example, “Kimmy frowned at Jasper when he didn’t share is pie”, or “Kimmy ignored Jasper after he didn’t share is pie.” To be show more action, I might say, “Kimmy snatched a pie from Jasper’s plate when he refused to hand her a piece.” This lets the reader see Kimmy and her reaction more clearly than using a word modifier would.

Where do word modifiers have their place? One place is in dialogue. When a writer uses dialogue in a story, she or he attempts to portray how people talk in real life. People including myself, use a lot of word contractions, such as “won’t”, “aren’t”, “ain’t” (southern dialect), and many others in speech. I have heard people and have caught myself using “just”, “like”, and the “ly” words often in my sentences. I do not realize when I use them at times. Since becoming more serious with my writing, I catch myself using such words.  An example where a modifier works is in this following dialogue, “I like dove all the way to the bottom of the spring and touched the bottom down there,” the boy said to his father. This might be the typical words a young kid might use. So using the modifier “like” creates a sense of realism in the boy’s language. Also, the words “down” and “there” are not necessary and are redudant since the boy is telling he “dove” to the “bottom” already.

A time the “ly” adverb might be excpetional is in this example: “I could do something that matters,” she said quietly. “Queitly” adds the tone of her voice. Therefore, it gives the reader a sense of how she is speaking, and the mood she is in.

This is just (oops) one example of word modifiers and how they can be replaced or used in sentences. However, word modifiers being friends and foes to the writer comes down to individual perspective. There are more examples and suggestions in the excellent source below:

How many word modifiers can you find in this post?



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