Sharpen Your Message by Deleting Intensifiers

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Intensifiers are like vitamins— they’re meant to strengthen but become poisonous when you exceed the recommended dose. Let’s save you from your childhood writing (and chewable vitamin) mistakes.

Intensifiers are words or expressions designed to intensify the words around them, but often have the opposite effect. They are usually adjectives and adverbs, and they are particularly bad when used to modify absolute words. Common intensifiers include very, really, incredibly, and extremely.

When we’re passionate about our topic and we’re writing to persuade, we search for words to amplify what’s already on the page. We hope to ignite the passion in our reader that exists in ourselves. But rather than adding more words to the existing ones, we should search for better words to paint an inspiring picture—or else let our picture stand alone, unadorned.

Delete Intensifiers to Strengthen Your Message

If you’re a business or legal writer, you probably have a broad vocabulary. Middle school writing advice to replace two words like very hot with a single, stronger adjective, like sweltering won’t apply to you. Instead, you may have found the perfect word, but you’ve diluted its impact by adding an intensifying phrase. (You’ve also increased word count and wasted space.) Delete the intensifier to make your writing more powerful.

To find needless intensifiers in your writing, look for:

  • unnecessary intensifiers – very, truly, seriously, etc.
  • intensifying phrases – a substantial portion of, a large number of, etc.
  • redundant adjectives – completely, totally, fully, etc.
  • modified absolutes – very empty, completely unanimous, etc.

These four types of intensifiers will sneak into your writing, and may even make it to publication, unnoticed, but you can find them and let your other well-chosen words sing. Knowing what to delete makes the difference between someone who merely writes for work and a great writer.

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Unnecessary Intensifiers

Defendants cannot seriously contend that these allegations do not put them on notice of the fraud claims.

Each state truly approaches these provisions within its own social, political, and cultural landscape.

Mr. Smith was definitely exposed to asbestos from his regular work.

The contract cannot be written with a very broad definition of the term.

The contract must fully preserve the rights of claimants.

The Defendants incredibly charge that plaintiffs manufactured a claim.

The students are actively engaged in the events.

The two executives were, by all measures, extremely well-informed.

What exactly does inconsistency look like?

Recruiters were absolutely interested in the skills I had before law school.

Intensifying Phrases

Large numbers of Many soldiers were wounded in the war.

Advertising revenue provides a substantial portion much of the funding for privately owned television networks.

Manufacturing once generated a great deal much of the city's wealth.

Ms. Matthis spent a considerable amount of time analyzing each document.

The spy collected a large amount lot of information on the criminal's routine.

Redundant Adjectives

During a closed session, the galleries are completely cleared of anyone not sworn to secrecy.

Fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed.

The company agreed to completely overhaul its reporting, hiring, and ethics procedures.

The cycles repeat completely every 146,097 days.

Wolves were never fully exterminated because of the area’s large forests.

Modified Absolutes

The catch basin was very empty.

The holiday included a very an ancient tradition.

That argument was somewhat unique.

The decision was completely unanimous.

It is a completely blank canvas.

Delete Qualifiers to Clarify Your Position

Similar to intensifiers, writers will add qualifiers to soften their message. Rather than creating comfort, however, the reader can become suspicious or annoyed. Save space by cutting diminutive words that don’t improve clarity.

Not many Few students went to the dance last night.

Despite some criticism of her for taking the role, the actress won critical acclaim for her performance.

The case can move forward if the Plaintiff can provide some evidence of his claims.

I like restaurants with small portions because I can try a little bit of everything.

We showed a little bit of naivete in that decision.

There is a bit of information missing from the article.

Cut Unnecessary Intensifiers and Qualifiers in One Click

Intensifiers and quantifiers are so common in English that even talented writers use them automatically, and many of those uses are unnecessary. Let WordRake review your writing before you declare it done. You may be surprised how many superfluous words you can cut from your text! Get a free trial of WordRake today.

About the Authors

Ivy B. Grey is the Chief Strategy & Growth Officer for WordRake. Before joining the team, she practiced bankruptcy law for ten years. In 2020, Ivy was recognized as an Influential Woman in Legal Tech by ILTA. She has also been recognized as a Fastcase 50 Honoree and included in the Women of Legal Tech list by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Follow Ivy on Twitter @IvyBGrey or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Danielle Cosimo is a Language Usage Analyst for WordRake. Before joining the team, she was a translator and editor for non-native English speakers applying to degree programs in the United States and the UK. Danielle is formally trained in linguistics and has a certificate in computer programming. She is fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. She applies her interdisciplinary knowledge to create WordRake’s editing algorithms.

The easiest way for writers to create more precise and highly polished writing.

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Our Story

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggested changes appear in the familiar track-changes style. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.