Replace ‘Very’ With ‘Damn’ To Improve Your Writing

Replace ‘Very’ With ‘Damn’ To Improve Your Writing

“Very” is one of those unnecessary words that can dull our writing. Take Mark Twain’s advice and if you get the urge to write “very”, substitute “damn” instead.

You won’t or shouldn’t necessarily leave all those “damns” in, however (especially if you’re writing children’s books). As The Write Practice quotes Twain:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very,’” said Mark Twain. “Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Got it? Damn good.

Want to Be a Better Writer? Cut These 7 Words [The Write Practice]


  • How is “very” an unnecessary word? I see unnecessary words as those that don’t change the meaning of a sentence. “Very” does.

    • It’s not strictly speaking unnecessary, but it is damn overused in early drafts. Really unless it’s contrasting against something else removing it is generally fine and has little to no impact on the interpretation of the sentence.

  • Also the word “really” e.g. “Unless it’s contrasting against something else… “

  • Samuel Clemens was a fantastic writer, despite the number of purposeful errors he injected into his works (let’s just say it’s a significant number of errors).

    Mark used to work on a steam boat. “Mark Twain” (meaning “Mark number two”) was a Mississippi River term. The second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet – a safe depth for the steamboat. In 1857, at the age of twenty-one, he became a “cub” steamboat pilot.

    His wife was his editor. She used to edit most of his letters before they went out to the public.

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