Very, So and Intensifiers
Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is so very important. This is a very useful tip to keep your writing from becoming so boring that it puts people to sleep.
It’s “so” and “very”. They’re used as intensifiers—you’re not just happy, you’re very happy. You’re not just excited, you’re so excited. And they are so overused in writing.
When you’re writing in a formal setting, both “so” and “very” are looked down upon. They’re considered far too informal for use in an academic or professional setting. Of the two, however so is considered, by far, the worst offender of the two.
In common speech, you’ll often hear people adding so for emphasis, but that’s considered a problem in formal writing. It’s what’s called a vague intensifier—that is, it’s not specific enough for use in writing.
However, you can use “so” if you make it more specific. Take a look at the following examples:
- Wrong: I was so hungry.
- Right: I was so hungry that I ate an entire bucket of fried chicken.
By using a “so… that” statement, you’re completing the description. So isn’t a vague intensifier anymore; it is instead an adverb of degree. It leads the reader to a thought explaining just how hungry you were. When you link so to another clause, you’re adding detail and specifics, which makes it alright in more formal writing.
Using the word very is not, in and of itself, an error. It is, however, the most overused word in writing, especially by beginning writers. English has hundreds of adjectives to choose from; using very over and over again is boring, repetitive and dull. Mental Floss produced a list of 128 replacements for the word “very”; using them can spice up your writing and make it less of a slog to read through.
So replace those “very difficult” problems with arduous tasks. Change your “very dull” essays into tedious ones. It’s not just “very easy”—it’s effortless. You’ll be more than “very happy”—you’ll be ecstatic. It will help turn a “very special” essay into an exceptional one.
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