“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys — to woo women — and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”
— John Keating, Dead Poets Society
I saw that someone had reblogged this quote a few minutes ago, and felt the need to comment on it. I appreciate the sentiment behind the thought: that writing should be more creative and less lazy. However, I think the problem with this is that it attempts to take the subjective and make it objective. There definitely are things that are objective, but writing is not one of them. Nearly all writing rules are good for the beginner, but if you stick too closely to things like this, you run the risk of becoming stale and clichéd. In my experience, rules for how to write or how not to right can almost always be broken skillfully and to great effect, by someone who understands the rule and therefore understands how and where to break it.
It’s also interesting to note that C.S. Lewis gave almost the opposite advice as that given in Dead Poets Society, in his book An Experiment in Criticism, which is probably the best book about books and reading that I’ve ever read. In the fourth chapter, he observes that sentences such as “I was terribly afraid” are often more than adequate: “To the good reader’s imagination such statements of the bare facts are often the most evocative of all.”