Thursday, April 25, 2019

A to Z 2019 April Blogger Challenge - The Letter V - Throat Clearers

It's April - That means I will be participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge.

I will be posting six days a week for the month of April - (with a rest day on Sunday).
Each post will begin with the corresponding letter of the alphabet beginning with A and finishing with the letter Z.

I began participating in this challenge in 2012.   With the exception of last year, I believe I completed the challenge each year.   Last year I lost steam somewhere around the letter W.


A couple of months ago I watched an interview with Benjamin Dreyer.  He is the author of the book
"Dreyer's English" -  "An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style".  

Mr. Dreyer is the Copy Chief of Random House.

From the book cover flap:

As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”

It's been many years since I have had instruction on rules and regulations of proper grammar usage. 
Don't ask me to diagram a sentence.   I could probably identify a noun and verb and perhaps an adjective or adverb.    

I googled and found this: 

The Eight Parts of Speech. There are eight parts of speech in the English language: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. The part of speech indicates how the word functions in meaning as well as grammatically within the sentence.   

Dryer has an opinion on this subject.   The title of Chapter 6 is "A Little Grammar Is A Dangerous Thing".   
 In the first sentence of this chapter he writes;  "I'm going to let you in on a little secret:  I hate grammar."

He does go on to admit that in order to do his job he did have to know at least a little something about grammar,  He then cites common confusions of grammar and the proper uses. 

Although I would classify the book as a reference guide, he has written it with prose and humor.

The one thing that caught my attention during his interview was when he described the challenge found in Chapter 1 - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Prose)".

"Go a week without writing 
  • very
  • rather
  • really
  • quite
  • in fact"
Somewhere in the back of my muscle memory brain, (is that even a thing?) I recall, from perhaps a writing class, that those words, but in particular, "very" are what he calls, "throat clearers".

Therefore, every time I am tempted to use "very" I stop and try to think of another word to use in place of the word I am attempting to amplify by using the word "very".

That's why I bought the book.  I wanted to learn more about ways to be a better writer without depending on "throat clearers."

I am very pleased to say that the book is more than that.  I think it will be a valuable reference as well as an enjoyable read.


  1. Does sound like it can be very beneficial for you and other writers. I get audited at work on reports and can have deducted 0.25 of a point (starting from 100, but our goal is that we have to have 99.5% accuracy) if something is wrong with the grammar. To me it doesn't sound so essential if I miss a comma or put it in the wrong place but apparently it matters to some.


    1. Wow, an audit like that must keep you on your grammatical toes. :)

  2. There's a pass of a novel (long past when the various plot things have been worked out) when most authors look for passive voice and those words. I'd add "that" and "just" to the list. It's amazing how often we rely on them.

    1. I've become more aware of those words when I listen to people talk. Those words are used a lot.

  3. One of the demons I'm always fighting is throat clearers...

    1. I too try to avoid the throat clearers while also worrying about where a comma should be or even if there should be one.