They haunt class announcements and announcement boards. They haunt CV categories. They haunt department-wide or even campus-wide emails. They are…Conferences!
Yes, those dreaded events that are the combination of rich citations, boring topics, and public speaking. Those pillars of privilege in which ivory tower nerds can use 5 syllable words to discuss two lines of a poem in its original Genovian or whatever. And yet, professors herald them as the key to networking, to a job, and to nirvana. Okay that’s far but you get it.
Conferences seem these daunting figures that hold the key to career success. Whether networking for creative publication or academic pursuits, a key step seems to be speaking at these events. But are they truly that terrible? What kind of genius insight or idea must one slave over to earn a spot? And is it all dry shut ins getting in fights about Elvish translation? Having freshly returned two weeks ago from the Southwest Pop Culture Association Conference (hereon referred to as Swapaca) in ABQ, NM, allow me to give my thoughts on the process.

1. Conference selection and Concrete Abstraction
The first step is finding out who is looking for writing and/or what genre you’re interested in presenting. Find an interesting journal in Auraria Library? Odds are they have a conference. Definitely ask around campus or journal editors to find conferences friendly for first timers. Being at Auraria Campus, there is a bounty of options including one coming this April taking submissions through March 11, submit today!
If you are inclined toward presenting in the ABQ I can say that Swapaca is very kind to its presenters.
So, let’s say you’ve found a friendly looking conference. Now comes the hang up of what to present. Your old papers were so specific, and few care about the exact fandom in which you find yourself. Well, let me tell you about calls for paper. There are calls for near every type of paper imaginable. Medieval LGBT poetry? Got it. Science and Harry Potter? Got it. Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Culture of Riffing? Got it, in fact it was this one that caught my gaze in October 2017. I had spent too much time watching riffers on YouTube (still do by the way) and figured the least I could do was count it all as research and present my abstract. While I am no master in the genre of abstract (as I’d figure no one could be), my simplest research confirms every recommendation before it. Explain your argument or summarize your story concisely without needing to fill the 500-word standard. Both of my accepted abstracts centered around 250 words.
And I am aware of the crucial modifier there, “accepted.” Hearing your submission has been rejected can break your heart. And it has happened to everyone. Your peers, your professors, and even your author have been rejected. Just as in a job interview, know that their decision is not rooted in failure or perception of intelligence. It is simply a matter of hitting a topic their audience will dig.
2. Uncredited Homework and Financers
Congratulations! Your abstract has been accepted! Now fork over a couple hundred so we can let you present. I admit the costs associated with conference travel and the event itself do nothing to help the image of the elitist academic. A good option provided a couple of hours work is asking for money from the Student Travel Committee with a faculty advisor, other students, and conference cost stats in tow. (Note: coming in with a group is always preferable to a solo student, both financially and marketingly.) Several conferences have scholarships for travel as well. Otherwise, start saving and plan on a diet of power bars during the trip.
The other thing your acceptance has given you is a two-part homework assignment: 1) complete a more-than-competently polished piece of creative or academic work and 2) be able to talk about it engagingly for 10-20 minutes. Going into the conference I figured most would opt out of part 2 but was pleasantly surprised as a majority of presenters talked about their research rather than reciting it. Accompanying PowerPoints may have varied in quality, but as a whole all of the scholars presented their work as if it were something they actually cared about and hoped you would too. A scholar reading head down in podium will be forgotten, so learn to engage with your topic and make it engaging.
3. The Main Event
Accompanying this may be a bad travel video that I implore you to avoid. Carpooling is always preferable to the solo road trip. But that’s really irrelevant to the whole process and at least provides a rest bit to gather your thoughts. The key things to pack is an adapter if you’re using AV and your paper. Whenever you arrive, take a second to swing by the room you’ll be presenting in. If at all possible, try practicing your piece. Having a solid view of the room will calm nerves. Get a good night’s rest, eat breakfast, and wear something that makes you feel like a boss.
Attend as many panels as you can and diversify. By seeing other presenters you can get a good feel for the tone of the conference. Often there are sessions that are more interactive than listening to a series of papers. At Swapaca I attended a panel on teaching that used a Dungeon Crawl to teach philosophy. It was baller. The hour before your presentation, it is a-okay to take time and practice your presentation and get hydrated.
Now, I hate to be the pragmatist, but I do need to address one thing that would have helped me going in. It is okay if only two people show up. It is worth it to present and hear your own labor unfold. To see your peers from across the country or the world and absorb their passion as well. It also will be okay if your room is cramming to fit in. These people are here largely because they are interested. There are the few who want to pick a fight or prove their superiority. But that’s in their bucket. Keep to your points, look up every now and again, and remember to breathe.
Congratulations, you have presented at a conference. You now have the right to advise others as if you truly know what you are talking about.

-Cassie Reid

From Spoken to Written Word: the Quest for Clarity

There is a difference between the way we speak and the way we write. There are several reasons for this, and when we write, we must shift into a different mode of expressing ourselves in order to effectively convey meaning. When we speak, what we say is guided by the contributions of the person/people we’re conversing with. When we write, what we say is guided by our imagined needs of the reader; we must be clear and succinct without the immediate feedback of someone else. We don’t know how our writing will be interpreted, so we have to work a little harder to be clear right off the bat. In a quest for written clarity, one of the most profound differences between spoken and written communication is the establishment of context.
Everything we express happens within in a certain context. Often, we speak in the context of shared knowledge with someone or group of people. You don’t have to verbally provide context when you’re interacting with someone who already shares prior knowledge with you. For instance, you might be cooking a meal together with family. Your cousin is chopping onions while you’ve been measuring other ingredients, and you ask “Done yet?”. “Done yet?” is a question without a clear subject or object, but we don’t have to say “I was wondering if you were done chopping the onions yet,” because all of that additional information is knowledge you already share with your cousin. You share the same context. Your cousin knows you’re referring to the onions when you ask “done yet?” even though you don’t say it explicitly. We don’t have to be so specific when speaking within a context based on shared knowledge.
In contrast, clear writing requires specificity when your audience doesn’t share prior knowledge with you, because it will be read out of context. If we were writing about this cooking situation, we would need to establish context for the reader: “I was cooking with my family last night and my cousin was taking a long time to finish preparing the ingredients. Impatient to eat, I asked him ‘Are you done chopping those onions yet?!’” The information that is missing from spoken context must be incorporated into written communication.

What you write will be read in the context of your reader’s subjective experience. It will be read in the context of their day, their mood, their life. Your reader isn’t likely to be invested in what you’re saying unless you have done the work to establish a different context for them. Once something is written down, it takes on a life of its own. It is something from your mind that has been defined and made manifest into a shared reality, with a potentially infinite audience. Writing is how our internal thoughts, ideas, and feelings are given voice and become part of concrete reality. Someone could stumble upon your writing 100 years from now and its meaning could be and completely misconstrued. It isn’t enough to write so you’ll be understood; you must write so you won’t be misunderstood. Written material can be read repeatedly and closely analyzed, so clarity is paramount for avoiding ambiguity and misinterpretation.
When we speak with one another, what we say and the order we say things is usually governed by the person/people you’re in a conversation with. When we write, we have to anticipate the needs and curiosities of the reader to guide what we say, instead of having someone prompt us for clarification or additional details. When we speak to someone, we have an idea of how well the other person understands what we’re saying based on their questions:
A costumer might ask a salesperson “I’m looking for new headphones, can you help me?”, and the salesperson asks “Over-the-ear or earbuds?”. The customer says “earbuds”. The salesperson then asks, “What is the most important thing to you when it comes to headphones? Comfort? Sound-quality?” and the customer replies “comfort”. Through someone’s questioning in a conversation, we provide more and more detail based on the other person’s need for understanding. When we write, however, we must determine ourselves what details to include based on our imagined needs of the reader. If someone was to write on social media to get feedback about headphones, they would need to set a context and provide detail within their writing: “Looking for new earbuds, comfort a MUST. Any suggestions?”. All of the information gathered over the course of a 3-question conversation must be included in the written piece all at once.

Writing must also be more succinct than speech, because when we speak, we have the opportunity to quickly correct ourselves. When we write something, we have made a definite statement. When we speak, we will often arrive at our intended meaning by correcting ourselves several times over the course of a conversation. In conversation we might say something like: “I don’t really listen to EDM that much. I mean, kind of. I guess I sometimes listen to it, but not, like, all the time. Maybe every other day? But sometimes I’ll get in a mood and listen to it every morning when I get up”. Or someone might say “I think Washington Park is my favorite park. Oh, wait. No. I mean Cheesman Park, sorry, I always get those two mixed up”.  If we wrote all of the self-corrections we make in speech, our reader would struggle to keep track of what we’re saying. We expect that writing has already boiled down our ideas to their most accurate and succinct form. Writing is a longer process than speaking, because it can be really hard work trying to figure out exactly what we’re trying to say and translate that into complete, coherent thoughts.

So, when I gave feedback on your assignment that there were “too many vague statements”, I think the disconnect that may have happened was transitioning from the demands of verbal communication to written communication. Clarity is our top priority in all genres and situations when we write. Clarity in writing results from anticipating the needs of our reader. As we transition between spoken word and written word, we must be aware of the differences in our approach to communication. Establishing a context for your writing, providing relevant detail, and being succinct are ways to bridge the gap between what we speak and what we write. Writing clearly demands a shift mindset to one that constantly has your imagined reader in mind; assume they need thorough explanation, and that they do not already share your knowledge.

-Erienne Romaine

Thesis Statements and how to navigate them

As a tutor, questions about thesis statements arise constantly. Composing arguments, research classes, and classes outside of the English curriculum dictate thesis statements to be solidified objects in introductory paragraphs, normally occurring towards the end, and for the sake of basic academic style and format, I will agree. There are other places to put your thesis, but that will be a different post… When tackling a thesis statement, there are so many different paths to take, from picking a topic, to exploring the different perspectives within the argument you wish to pose, to defining the argument that needs to be addressed. Remember that a 1…2…3…list cannot be applied for all arguments, and it is always best to play around with arguments and pose them to your classmates, or mentors, or professors… (they hold specific interest in your thesis being awesome). Rhetorical statements are a crucial part to academic life, and it is necessary to understand and be able to implement certain methods to have a fail-safe approach to creating outstanding thesis statements throughout your college career. Below is some fantastic advice about different things to keep in mind when up against having to create an original thesis statement. And like always, if you, the reader, has anything to add, it is entirely welcome. We love to hear from our readers!

1. Know your topic:

How on Earth will you create an argument out of thin air that has merit? You won’t. The only way to start it to immerse yourself in research. When our teachers ask us for “at least 5 and no more than 7 sources,” there’s a reason for it…  When we read multiple articles on a subject we are inquiring about, it is for the purpose of knowledge and for the purpose of furthering or explaining the research. Reading your articles will help with your overall essay, not only your thesis, so it’s best to start here….

2. Create a general statement that can be argued:

Is your statement controversial, or is your statement common knowledge? Thesis Statements depend whether or not you can adequately argue what has been stated, and depending on the topic, theses can range from informational, to purely rhetorical or argumentative. Did you learn any new concepts or did you notice any themes throughout your research? A great tip to remember is, if you’re having trouble finding sources, look at your favorite piece of research and look at their reference list. This is a great way to find primary sources, and to find out how research originated. Another way, is to visit your college or local library and speak with a reference librarian. Reference Librarians have a degree that makes them absolute experts in the library and with all things research. At MSU Denver we are privilege to all the expanding services the Auraria Library is offering, including The Knowledge Market, Research Help, and a full array of Digital Collections to aid your research needs.

3. Hone

Once you have your general thesis statement and you turn it into your professor, they may come back with the response as to hone or “condense” or “edit” your thesis statement. This is totally okay, espeically since most professors ask to look at topics and thesis statements before any writing happens. This saves all writers from writing something that is irrelevant or incorrect. Please remember that ALL thesis statements are working statements and are not set in stone. This trips a lot of writers up… but just remember, everything you type or write CAN BE CHANGED!!!!! Nothing is set and if your research leads to a different conclusion than you originally thought, then GREAT!! All you have to do now is revamp your thesis so it fits the rest of your paper. (p.s. this is what writing tutors are for…)

4. Revisit

Once you’ve written your essay you can go back and revisit everything that your research has concluded… Once this happens, like stated above, you are able to revisit your thesis and see if it truly fits with the research you have provided on the topic. Tweak where necessary, and if you still aren’t sure with the final product, come to the MSU Denver Writing Center! We’ll give you a second opinion!


Happy Writing!

Aubrey Baucum••

Eradicating Writer’s Block

As a writer, I am faced with the question, “how do you combat writer’s block?” all the time. And I’ll let you in on my secret…. I don’t have a secret. Truth be told, there is not one set way to get rid of or overcome writer’s block, and for a lot of artists, creative blocks are something that is natural, and takes time to know how to move from it. Living in a house that lives and breathes art, I have had to find ways to continue to work, even if my brain is screaming a million things at once, or if it’s silent. Silence can be more detrimental to my block because thought doesn’t ‘just arise.’ Below, I have compiled a list to help you get through your next spout of writer’s block. Of course, this is not, and will never be a complete list, and I do always encourage my fellow artists to add to the list in order to hone specific methods that work for specific individuals.

1. Do another kind of art

Lots of time when writing becomes strained, it is best to take one’s mind completely off of the subject at hand, and switch to a more kinesthetic exercise.

2. Write in a different style

Trying to finish that book, but not having any luck where you’re at? Try writing a poem, or go old-fashioned, and write someone a letter. Bonus, the receiver will be appreciative of the letter you sent. Letters to one’s self can also be helpful if you are someone who is able to work through problems in your own head.

3. Get some exercise

There’s nothing like some flowing blood to get the mind back into the game. Exercise has been medically proven to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and these are also disorders that can hinder your creative ability or motivation. Playing with your cats, or your dog, or going for a walk can get your mind moving enough for writer’s block to ease.

4. Have a conversation

Sometimes, like mentioned above, talking to one’s self can be very useful, however that doesn’t work for everyone. Find someone you trust and ask them if you can bounce an idea or two off of them! Friends are a tremendous support group that all artists should take advantage of because art is not created in a vacuum!

5. Stop for the day

If it isn’t happening, it isn’t happening. Walking away is an incredibly powerful tool in your arsenal, and should be employed when frustration levels are at their highest. This will save paper, time, and will stop you from tossing something that is maybe really great. Plus, art isn’t about force, it’s about creativity.


At the end of the day, writer’s block is something that every writer faces, even Stephen King. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to allow it to take over our daily lives so it con obstruct our artistic prowess. Find a method that works for you and embrace it, it may just be the distraction you need to get yourself back on track. Because, who ever said all distractions are bad?

Sigma Tau Delta

MSU Denver is home to the Alpha Psi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an honor society of English majors and minors dedicated to promoting the study of language and literature.*

Do you want to join a community of like-minded people? Looking to get involved more on campus? Aren’t sure what Sigma Tau Delta is? Below are just a few things Sigma Tau Delta offers to members.


Academic Recognition

  • Members receive a personalized Sigma Tau Delta membership certificate and the official Society pin to signify high achievement in English language, writing, and literature.
  • Members may wear Sigma Tau Delta regalia at graduation and other important ceremonies to celebrate their accomplishments.


Writing Awards and Opportunities

  • Members may submit papers for publication in The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle and The Sigma Tau Delta Review. Works selected for publication are also eligible for overall awards and monetary prizes.
  • Members may submit articles to Sigma Tau Delta’s online publications, The Sigma Tau Delta Newsletter and WORDY by Nature, the official Sigma Tau Delta blog.
  • Members may submit articles to Sigma Tau Delta’s regional publications, where available.


Annual Convention

  • Members may submit papers for presentation at the annual Sigma Tau Delta international convention. Works selected for presentation are also eligible for overall awards and monetary prizes.
  • Members who attend the annual convention have opportunities to hear students from throughout the U.S. and abroad present their creative and critical writing, to attend sessions on student leadership and chapter activities, and to listen to presentations by noted authors. Featured speakers at recent conventions include Neil Gaiman (2009), Azar Nafisi (2010), Poet Laureate Kay Ryan (2011), Natasha Trethewey (2012), and Ursula Le Guin (2013).


If you’re interested, click here to be taken to MSU Denver’s Sigma Tau Delta site.



* as described by MSU Denver

Writing as a Form of Stress Relief

-Aubrey Baucum

There are those in the world who find writing incredibly stressful, even occupational writers. However, there are forms of writing that can help relieve stress such as stream-of-consciousness writing, journaling, blogging, etc. that have shown to be useful in managing all of the crazy things that we have to deal with in the world.

One might say; “I’m stressed out! I don’t have time to sit and write!”

But, I implore you, even taking 5 minutes out of your day to write down the emotions bottled up inside of you can let go of an extraordinary amount of weight that is placed on your shoulders everyday. A lot of times we find ourselves in situations which aren’t appropriate places to express things like anger, frustration, or fear, but finding a minute or two to jot down emotional stress can allow your mind to ease, and your day to continue. Because the world is now filled with more outlets to write, thanks to the internet, anyone who has a phone, tablet, or laptop, is now able to do the same work as someone with a legal pad/notebook and a pen. It is so wonderful that we are able to express ourselves mid train ride, or during a baseball game, or even in complete isolation, and because of technology, we have ways of being connected to billions more people than ever before through our writing.

Below I have listed a few methods that I use when writing for stress relief. And while I acknowledge that every one of us has different methods and styles, I have found my methods to be tried and true for me, and I hope they can at least guide you into some stress diminishing prose.

1. I clear my table/work station of anything that can be stress boosting, like my cell phone or personal gaming systems.

2. For me personally, I love listening to concentration music of some kind, there are lots of great 3 hour compilations on YouTube.

3. I prefer to work on my computer, so I can utilize YouTube, and so my hands don’t cramp up from manually writing.

4. I take a moment before I write and I close my eyes. This is just like a quick little meditation moment, where I become conscious of my breathing, and center my thoughts.

5. I start writing about what is bugging me for 5 minutes. I don’t structure anything, or even use punctuation. I just expel everything I’m upset about on to the page.

6. Depending on who you are, and if anger comes into play, you have the choice of reading what you wrote, closing it and forgetting about it, or some people like to burn things, as a cleansing ritual to rid themselves of the rest of their stress. (Please be careful if you want to burn anything.. and do it in a controlled environment!)

5 minutes is both a long, and a short amount of time for any writer. However, when my 5 minutes is up, I generally want to continue writing in stream-of-consciousness, or by that time another idea has jumped into my brain, and I can work with that thought for a while. However, by the time 5 minutes is up (or however long you want to write), I feel much lighter, not only in body, but in spirit/mind as well. Physically writing out problems allows for the writer to work through just how stupid a conversation was, or just how unfair someone was being, or how unfair they were being. Manifesting words on paper or screen is a great way to sort through conversations that seemed to confuse you or that angered you. Personally, I have found that writing a horrible boss a letter they will never see can be quite relieving and actually pretty rewarding. The point is, Don’t send it!

Whether you are someone who loves writing, or despises it, writing can help with formulating, understanding, and alleviating unwanted anxiety that occurs in our day-to-day lives, and learning how to cope with that unwanted stress is the key to personal success. I really hope my writing ritual steps can help you with your next stressful situation, and if you have any great tips that you employ when you write to de-stress, please feel free to leave them below!



Humor in Academic​ Writing

A priest, a rabbi, and a blue whale walk into a bar.

But more on that later.

For now, let’s all just express a truth so deep it need not be spoken–academic writing can be more boring than watching paint dry on a field of growing grass. The phenomenon of eyes glazing over page 394 of Dry-As-Bones Journal X is common. What can be even harder is reading your own academic work and realizing the same effect is taking hold. Perhaps worst of all, being profoundly bored with your writing midway through. One reliable option in such a case is to deploy humor.

For those too entrenched in academia to remember something like humor, humor is the combined effect of the unexpected, the unique, and the unexplored creating happiness or laughter. At least for convenience’s sake, that’s the definition we’re going with. Humor as a rhetorical strategy is often overlooked or considered demeaning to a paper or an audience. Little could be farther from the truth as humor is a fantastic link between ideas, between author and audience, and a great source of inspiration when the idea well dries up. The question becomes how and when to use it. Here are a few short tips for several points along the writing process.

  • Select quotes that make you laugh as examples

There is a reason for using the awkward phrasing of “quotes that make you laugh” rather than just “funny quotes.” Being basically that it is astounding that symbols arranged on a page caused a physical reaction. Then your job is to find out how. If stuck in pre-writing without an idea, finding sections that make you laugh either on reflection or while reading can be an excellent jumping-off point. Evidence of this being a success or not will play out in real time

  • Amplify your transitions

Let’s say you’re writing a paper about “The Bluest Eye.” You want to discuss the evolution of Frieda’s coming of age specifically the awakening of her sexuality. The end of your first paragraph intones the complexity of the work. Your next paragraph then begins, “Speaking of complicated, let’s hit on Frieda’s curious phase.” Obviously, your paper is better than this but you (hopefully) get my point. Humor during transitions helps both reinforce the point of the previous paragraph and cleanses the palate for what’s to come.

  • Vary your sentence structure (aka know when to break the rules)

Academic sentences tend to be rich, dense, and layered, which is the diplomatic way of saying dang long and perhaps pretentious. Using a sentence fragment than to emphasize a point or to provide commentary can give both a nice respite from thick vocabulary and structure and a sudden giggle to whoever is reading.

These are three small ways both to make a project more entertaining for the writer and the reader. Humor in academia really isn’t all that different from humor in day to day conversations, there is a time and a place for it and, when done effectively, it can brighten the day of all who see it. So, okay, now a silly joke from Reddit user “kdfsjljklgjfg”:

“’A priest, a rabbi, and a blue whale walk into a bar.

The priest says “I believe Christ is our lord and savior, and I pray to him every night.”

The rabbi says “I don’t believe Christ is our savior, but he was a very good man.”




Blind Date With a Book

Happy Spring 2018 semester! We here at the MSU Denver Writing Center hope everyone had an amazing or at least relaxing break. This Spring we will be introducing something new to the Writing Center called Blind Date With a Book.

I am an avid Instagram user (the Writing Center has an Instagram this semester too! Check us out @msudenverwritingcenter) and follow tons of other bibliophiles like me. One person posted about finding a bookstore that did a Blind Date with a Book and swooned. Who doesn’t have that one book on their shelf they haven’t read because of the cover? Who hasn’t gone to a bookstore and made a purchased based on the cover? Who doesn’t Instagram book covers to show them off because some of them are so painstakingly beautiful? Just me?  Well, I thought it was a beautiful idea and did some research on the bookstore in question.

Elizabeth’s Bookshop located in the UK has a facebook and Instagram (their tag is @blinddatewithabook), which I recommend anyone to follow. Their reason for the idea? That Blind Date with a Book is a mystery book, wrapped in brown paper, tagged with clues, and opens the world of reading. It’s new, exciting, and just a little bit scary. It’s to encourage to try something new, even if it’s small. To do something that scares you, even if it’s just reading a book you wouldn’t of before.

The Writing Center is going to get this idea a shot, and hope that everyone tries out their blind date. The King Center will have three shelves with wrapped books that only have a few words on them as clues. This is open to everyone, so teachers, or faculty, or students, or maybe that random person who so happens upon this post, EVERYONE is able to try our Blind Date with a Book.

Note: If you happen to pick a book that you have read (and don’t want to reread), or own then please feel free to give it back to a member of the Writing Center staff and pick another one!

Note: Books can be new or gently used but all are given and shelved with care.

P.s. Sorry for all the quotes, but I found I couldn’t pick just one.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
― Lemony Snicket

“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
― Cassandra Clare


-Brandy Joiner


APA Format: The Answers You’ve Been Searching For

We all know how hard formatting a paper can be. That, and there are several different ways to format! We’ve had a lot of APA formatting in the Writing Center due to it being near finals so we thought we would post the site we use if we aren’t sure about something.  It covers in-text citations, different citations per sources used, and the difference between a reference list and a bibliography.

Note: this site is helpful but the Writing Center is still an amazing resource to use!

The American Psychological Association has this posted on their site,, for quick answers and references.


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What to Use Instead of “Very” or “Really”

It’s that time in the semester again. The one we’ve dreaded for sixteen weeks- finals. The work-load amount has surged upward and you’re looking at a blank screen hoping your twelve-page paper will write itself. Well, it won’t.

During my time in the Writing Center, I have noticed another surge upward in the use of the words “very” or “really.” I am here to let you know that they are filler words! Perhaps, Mark Twain said it best: “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.”  Mind, this quote was meant for sending your work out to an editor but the idea is the same.

The words “very” or “really” (or any sort of intensifier) are just a way of increasing the value of a word without adding anything else that is descriptive. You’re using two words when one would suffice.  For example, “he was very loud,” yet you can try “deafening” or “thunderous” (i.e. he was deafening). Another example is “she was really cold,” you could try using freezing (i.e. she was freezing). Not only do they roughly mean the same, but they are more descriptive. If you prefer not to change the word, then leave it without the very. I promise your writing is stronger without it.

Need help replacing “very” or “really?” Here’s a quick handy chart made by Amanda Patterson from blog, which is a fantastic blog (seriously it’s great), for a few suggestions. A thesaurus always works too!

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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. It also won’t do in your essays. ~N.H. Kleinbaum


-Brandy Joiner