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Using Qualifiers in Dialogue

Charles Goulet

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Qualifiers such as very, many, rather, hardly, etc. should be avoided in serious writing that is narrative, expository, descriptive, or argumentative, in other words formal writing, but it is acceptable in informal writing such as humor, magazine articles, and essays for public consumption. Again, this means that the writer should use caution and prudence that requires thought and attention to the purpose of the writing.

That said, the use of these words in dialogue is essential as normal conversation is rife with qualifiers. Most people use them indiscriminately. The qualifier very is probably the one most overused. If such qualifiers are not used in dialogue it sounds unnatural and stiff, but the writer must not overdo their use, as it will denigrate the composition, especially if it is prose.

Like contractions, qualifiers speed up conversation, making it flow smoothly, but the writer must use them judicially even in dialogue. Too many qualifiers tend to make the writing stinted and commonplace. Of course, their use can be a characteristic of the person who uses them. Their careful use must make the writing natural and unaffected, not common and contrived. Although it is a minor point in writing, it is one that should not be overlooked.

A study of their use by accomplished writer will help the novice to make judicial use of qualifiers and other trite verbs as well.

So the use of qualifiers will, for the most part, be used by fiction writers rather than by others to make dialogue appear normal and customary.

Charles O. Goulet has a BA in history and a BEd in English literature so he writes historical novels, most based on Canadian history. He may be contacted at:





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