Almost, Even, and To

The teacher of the writing course I am taking — Patrick Barry — suggests using the words almost, even, or to in your essays to add nuance to your writing. I was not sure what nuance meant applied to writing, so I looked up the word online to get some understanding. From YourDictionary, I got the following: ”A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation.” Ok, I can understand that. Not everything is black and white; not everything in politics is right or left; not everything in paintings is painted just with primary colors. Gradations make life enjoyable even though it seems like the day’s politics are either right or left.

Let me share a couple of sentences from the course to illustrate, and then I will try some of my own —maybe.

“When I turned on the landing of the Lyceum stairs, I was shocked to see him sitting in the windowsill. I glanced at him quickly, and then quickly turned away, and was about to walk into the hall when he said, “Wait.” His voice was cool and Bostonian, almost British.”

—Donna Tartt, The Secret History (1992)

Oswaldo was flummoxed by the fact that his friend could be so quiet, almost embarrassed, about his academic acumen, yet so damn loud and proud of his status as a premier campus drug dealer.”

—Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (2014)

“There, he began to feel some actual joy, even exhilaration, which made him want to leap forward and grab every woman who vaguely resembled the latest pictures she had sent him, all of which he had neatly framed and hung on the walls of his room.”

—Edwidge Danticat, “Seven” (2002)

My attempt at trying my own:

My wife, almost frantic about the pile of coats amassing on the sofa en masse, gave the final ultimatum to me, saying, ”Put those coats in the closet or what is not in the closet is going to the thrift store.”

Driving the work truck across the bridge, the truck started slipping on ice. Experiencing fear, even dread, I regained control and vowed to be more careful next time.

I almost forgot about to. Sentences from the course:

“This meant he was involved in everything from designing user interfaces, to testing with customers and reviewing specifications, to coordinating with engineers.”

—Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, Make Time (2018)

“Throughout this vast republic, from the St. Croix to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, revenue is to be collected and expended, armies are to be marched and supported.”

—Chief Justice John Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

My own.

He enjoyed living in the mountains of the Carolinas from motorcycling on windy roads, to backpacking in the wilderness, to taking care of things outdoors around the house.

I’m actually finding it hard to apply what I’m learning in the course. You almost have to force yourself to use it until you feel at home with it. I guess I got to reread my essay on Deliberate Practice.

2 thoughts on “Almost, Even, and To

  1. Love these deliberate practice shorts. I myself tend to use these words, but an editor once deleted all hints of them in a manuscript, so I err on the side of brevity now. I enjoy reading your take on these exercises. Thanks for sharing!


  2. ”So I err on the side of brevity now.”

    The teacher devoted one lecture to a published author who overuses these words, other words, and other writing techniques to the extreme, so I like what you said, ”I err on the side of brevity now.” Thank you for sharing with me, Stuart!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s