As a former reporter and editor, words are very important to me. Like the word very. It is a useless word, one that Mark Twain abhorred. He said, “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very” – your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
I confess it still creeps into my writing. But I am, if you will, word-conscious and more tuned in than most to words that people use. My eyebrows raise when I read a sports article about the ‘physicality’ of the game or hear the weatherman predict ‘tornadic’ activity and I wonder if those are real words. They are. I looked them up.
A co-worker once threw a stylebook at me and said, “Take the time to look it up if you want to be a good writer.” And so I do. The word that sent her over the edge was toward. You move toward something, not towards. The ‘s’ grates on me now whenever I hear it.
The other day as I worked on my latest novel, I found myself reaching for the stylebook again. Is it me either or me neither? I wasn’t sure.
Use either to mean one or the other, not both. And so I wrote,
“I didn’t expect that to hap
pen,” she whispered.