Weakness Words & Phrases
One of the things we too often do as writers is soften our language with words and phrases of weakness — words that we insert in attempt to sound less authoritative, but end up just cluttering up a page and too often makes us sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about.
- If none of the results rolled fit the story at the moment, feel free to choose another one or make up your own.
- GMs should have the players be brief when describing their backstories.
- If the table begins bickering, that’s a sign of a problem. You should stop and address this.
And so on. It make seem subtle or innocuous, but then most individual choices of language are — it’s when they all add up that you see how those many choices shape the mindset around the work.
I almost universally kill “feel free to” — it adds nothing to the statement, especially when it’s an if-then surrounding a reminder of permission (like the example above). Every time “should” comes up in a document, I look it over and 99% of the time I kill them with fire, because “should” has a weird sense of ambiguity that just outright stating something doesn’t. There are other weakness words and phrases out there, but those two bits stick out in my mind.
- If none of the results rolled fit the story at the moment, choose another one or make up your own.
- GMs, have the players be brief when describing their backstories. (Or better yet, “Players, be brief when describing backstories.”)
- If the table begins bickering, stop and address this.
By tightening the phrasing and removing words that communicate weakness, you achieve two things: one, you make something that’s easier to remember, because it’s tighter; two, you’re showing respect to your reader by not treating them like they need to be coddled. (This goes toward my principle of assuming your readers are smart, and should be talk to as such.)
What words or phrases of weakness have you encountered?
 Cynics be damned.