Improve your writing by dumping fuzzy words

To really improve your writing, your words should be very specific and read maybe something like what you’d find in a story that’s not so loosely written.


The problem with the above advice is it’s riddled with fuzzy words – or words that aren’t precise: really, very, maybe, something like, no so loosely. Such words weaken your writing by giving an inexact, out-of-focus picture of the landscape or idea that you’re portraying. Other fuzzy words include almost, half- , very, really, seem, looked like, and felt.

They’re also known as “weasel words,” because as a writer, you have a responsibility to be precise. By using fuzzy words, though, the writer fails to do the hard work of writing and instead behaves like an optometrist who does a sloppy job and hands a customer a pair of glasses in which the prescription is slightly off.

The opening sentence would be improved if rewritten as: To improve your writing, your words should be specific, like those in a tightly-constructed story.

As with any rule, there’s an exception, of course. Fuzzy words might be used in dialogue to show that a character has an imprecise sense of what occurred (“I only got a glimpse – it looked to be almost eight feet tall.”) or when that character is being deceptive (He suppressed a grimace. “It’s very good,” he said, not looking up.).


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.