Thursday, December 12, 2013

Strike Out Against 'Nearly'

I’m reading a book right now and the author has a penchant for the word ‘nearly’. It’s nearly driving me crazy! It bugs me so much that I’ve nearly gone and checked four of my manuscripts to search for the word ‘nearly’!  I won’t quote directly from the book because I don’t believe in bashing authors and I like the story. It’s a decent book. I’m also grateful to the author because it reminds me that there is a difference between a character who hesitates and a writer who hesitates.

Here’s an extreme example of why you should strike the word ‘nearly’ from your work:

The killer nearly pulled a gun.

See what I mean? It doesn’t work. The killer pulled a gun is always going to be the better sentence.

Here’s another example:

I was crouched down low, nearly breathless…

I don’t think you can be ‘nearly breathless’. Instead try something like:
I was crouched down low, my breath coming in short, shallow bursts…

Even if you’re using it to indicate location, there will be better word choices.

We were nearly to the church when the tire blew out.

Nope.  We were less than a mile from the church when the tire blew out sounds much better.
What do you think? Do you use the word 'nearly' effectively?



  1. Good examples! I love it though when we can get past the writing and enjoy the reading of a book. It seems to be a writer's curse.


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