By migramirez - October 9, 2013

By Molly Dougherty, The Writing Center - Let me tell you how I feel about the use of (most) intensifiers in professional or academic writing.  Words like, REALLY.  Or VERY.  Or EXTREMELY. When I read an otherwise well-written paper discussing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and the (student) writer describes it as “a really desperate situation” I just think — really?  Did you actually use “really” in this kind of piece? Now I’m not saying that there are absolutely no scenarios in which these words are appropriate in a professional or academic paper.  I (really) don’t think there are, but I’m willing to accept the possibility that such an extreme scenario exists. However, save a life-or-death situation in which you are being held hostage by adverb-obsessed terrorists and they demand that you use really or extremely or very in your concept paper or they will put you in grammar solitary confinement for the rest of your natural-born days……see where I’m going with this?  It’s just not that likely. Clean, concise writing is a beautiful thing. It is a pleasure to read. And in the academic or business realm, it is often a requirement of your continued gainful employment. Words like really or extremely or very are not only unnecessary, they’re cheesy, and no one wants to look cheesy.  Unless you’re a performance artist who uses cheese as your medium, in which case…..but I digress. Anyway, to avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and remain cheese-free, I recommend the following useful and well-known tome:   On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. This is one of THE best books out there on how to prune your writing into a topiary of enduring beauty. The Maven gets most of her books second-hand on Amazon (cuz she is CHEAP) and she urges you to do the same. So get yourself a previously loved copy of the wise and wonderful Mr. Zinsser, read it with gusto (especially the first four chapters) and apply the concepts.  Don’t forget to apply the concepts! Otherwise it’s like making a batch of cookies and forgetting to turn on the oven. Bonus! One of the cool things about Herr Zinsser that time-stressed students are sure to appreciate is that he follows his own advice: the chapters are short, sweet and to the point. So, to recap:  Reading — and applying, don’t forget the applying! — the concepts found in books like On Writing Well can really help improve your writing. Really. [fblike][tweet][pinit][gplus]