No Qualifiers

Assertive and confident writing attracts the reader and brings certainty to your writing. This makes people read further. Qualified or hesitant writing produces uncertainty which writers must always fight against.

“I think Bob is a good person.”

No, no, no, no.

“Bob is a good person.”

Why use I? It only exists to enable the word “think.” Which you do not want.”I think” is mush. State what you think without writing “I think.” Take a stand. Declare. Hunter Thompson always did:

“Hubert Humphrey is a treacherous, gutless old ward-heeler who should be put in a goddamn bottle and sent out with the Japanese current.”

Above all, don’t use the word “belief.” If you want to believe something, go to church. Your readers want certainty even with an uncertain subject. How does that work?


Quantum physics may answer how the universe is arranged, however, scientists can’t agree on which explanations or theories make the most sense.


Quantum physics seeks to answer how the universe is arranged. In this unsettled field of research, however, scientists disagree as to which theories make the most sense.

I removed the qualifying word “may”which improved things. After writing these two examples, though, I realized that these sentences were completely pedestrian. They all needed a rewrite.

Much better

Why is the universe arranged as it is? Quantum physics seeks the answer. Researchers in this unsettled and evolving field, however, disagree on which theory best explains the ordering of the stars.

State a question and then answer it. Then lead into a discussion. That’s always good.

In the case of this writing exercise, what if a reader disagrees that QM seeks to answer the arrangement of the universe? Let them write you. But don’t feed the rest of your readers mush like “may” as in the first example. Ditto for “perhaps” and “maybe” and “usually” and “sometimes” and all the other qualifiers which muddy writing instead of clarifying it.

That’s the way it is? No, not always. Walter Cronkite leaned so far left it was a miracle he could stand up straight. But he used this line to close every broadcast. In his mind, that’s the way things were. No need to say “I.” Tell people what you think without saying “I think.” Make a stand. Declare. Exceptions?

Only for poets like Eliot:

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

From The Wasteland (of, course)

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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