Qualifiers are words that qualify or intensify
adjectives or adverbs. Because of their modifying
function, qualifiers really are adverbs (words that modify a
verb, adjective, or another adverb). Very, too,
rather, even, much, fairly,
quite, still, kind of, and sort of
are qualifiers. Qualifiers can be a strong writing tool,
especially when used for emphasis or clarification. They can
help liven up language and ensure that the reader
understands your meaning, but they can also cause wordiness.
We use them often in speech, so it seems natural that they
would flow in writing as well. But there are several
strategies to avoid wordiness with qualifiers.
Qualifiers with Absolutes
writers encounter when using qualifiers is that, many times,
it is tempting to use a qualifier to modify a word that is
already absolute in its meaning. Absolute words
describe something as it is in a certain form or extreme
state, thus they cannot take on a modifier (i.e., as it is,
an absolute word cannot be modified). Take a
look at the following examples.
Christmas decorations looked absolutely perfect.
that is perfect cannot be any more or less so, nor can it
be, as this sentence seems to say, “perfectly perfect.”)
Salvador Dali’s paintings strike most people as being
refers to something that is one of a kind, not something
that can be measured in degrees of how one-of-a-kind it is.)
hula-hoop was quite round until I snapped it into its
now unusable form.
is a geometric description referring to a perfect circle or
sphere. Something is either round or it’s not.)
In each one
of these sentences, the adjective after each qualifier
already has a clear meaning. Writers should try to avoid
using qualifiers with absolute words in most
also have difficulty qualifying or intensifying imprecise
adjectives when more precise meaning could be conveyed by
choosing a different, more specific adjective instead. The
technique to employ here is to draw on that extensive
vocabulary we all have stored up. For example, rather than
claiming to have read a really great book, what about
an excellent or outstanding book? A very
tired individual may instead feel exhausted or
fatigued. Extremely upset may be exasperated
or enraged or devastated depending on the
weak qualifier + adjective/adverb combinations with more
specific words strengthens a writer’s voice and can even
make ideas easier to understand.