It’s Time to Say Good-bye to “Suddenly” and Farewell to “Finally”
by Owen Fourie
Do you have a pet word, a word that you repeat several times in the course of one conversation?
Certainly, basically, essentially, absolutely, are some of the words that come to mind, not forgetting phrases such as you know and of course. It is easy to slip into the groove of repetitive usage.
This habit also affects your writing, but there you are able to bring correction more easily if you proofread your work.
Watch out for the -ly words
Watch out for the adverbs, the -ly words. They can be the ruin of writing, so be a hard taskmaster and demand that they justify their presence in your essay.
Two adverbs that plague the writing of students are suddenly and finally. In the course of one composition, it is possible to find either one or the other or both of these words used to excess. This has been my experience on many occasions.
For suddenly, it is time to cut back on its use by eliminating it entirely, if its removal doesn’t change your meaning, or by rewriting the relevant part. For finally, use it sparingly so that it does mean what it says.
Suddenly is a particular favorite, and students like to use it to bring some tension, some drama into a story. Too often, though, it is used where there is no matching tension or drama. It becomes a clanging symbol of emptiness and lack in the unfolding story.
If you feel that you need to use suddenly, discipline yourself to use it only once in any piece of writing. If it indicates something unforeseen, something that occurs abruptly and changes a situation without warning, and you use it only for this instance, it should be fine.
If you use it for every instance of abrupt change or the unexpected, it will become hackneyed. It will deprive your writing of the sense that you are trying to convey. Don’t do it. Rewrite those scenes to make it clear that something has occurred without warning, and you will not need to use suddenly. It will be obvious to your reader.
Finally is another favorite that is misapplied by students. If it occurs several times in one story, identify which event is really the final one in the series and use it only for that one.
Reserve the use of finally for the point in your essay or your narrative that really does speak of the conclusion, the ultimate result, the outcome, the end of something. Use it only once, at the end. It is out of place in the middle of any development that is far from completion.
Is it really necessary to use finally? Aren’t you stating what is obvious to your reader? Isn’t it already clear that this is the final point, the outcome? Ask yourself these questions, and you could, perhaps, eliminate finally from your writing.
Suddenly, you know, finally, what to do with your writing. Ouch!
Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are you struggling with overused words in your writing? Discuss specific instances here and give examples.
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