Ugh. So that's a brain teaser. What the heck does any of that mean?
Qualifiers are words like almost, sometimes, only, very, quite, might, just, enough, maybe, really, a little, less, pretty, and so on. They can also be adverbs like partly, mostly, completely, extremely.
maybe sometimes probably just
almost partly might often
But what's the problem with that?
Most of the time there's nothing wrong with qualifiers. They're needed and helpful.
It's quite bright out.
The water is too hot.
I"m pretty tired.
But then there's the other side. When qualifiers strip the power from a sentence and make it wishy-washy.
They challenge the validity of your action. Using a qualifier is like throwing up the word 'whoa!' We're charging into the action and then oops, the qualifier stalls you. It makes the sentence weaker--makes the main character less decisive. It steals the thunder from a sentence and leaves you with a paler shadow. Here's an example:
The rocks crashed down, mostly burying Tootsie under stone.
So she's not completely buried, she's only partly buried? You've qualified the character's suffering and made it less. You've mitigated the action. Let's allow Tootsie to suffer the full jeopardy.
The rocks crashed down, burying Tootsie under stone.
Jim's broken hand hurt almost as badly as a kick to the balls.
This qualifies Jim's pain and makes less of it. Why are you being so nice to Jim? An MC has to suffer. Give poor Jim the full effect and to hell with the qualifying. Be bold. Be decisive. Have strong sentences.
Jim's broken hand hurt like a kick to the balls.
Qualifiers might weaken your sentence.
Obviously every qualifier isn't going to ruin a sentence. But this one might. (hehe!) Which title carries more power, makes a reader more interested? Which title works better? I think you know!
Another culprit that can do the same damage is the word 'seem.' Seem says this could be what's happening, but ... meh ... maybe not. It does the same as a qualifier and robs strength from the sentence.
Peggy seemed to be pale and her skin clammy.
Seemed to be? Don't be a wimp. Give Peggy the full Monty. She deserves to suffer. That's true conflict. That's real urgency.
Peggy was pale and her skin clammy.
What if the Go Go's said We Sometimes Got the Beat? What if the Beatles said I Often Want to Hold Your Hand? Queen didn't go with We're Sort of the Champions.
Not every qualifier has to go. But if they slow down the action and make your sentences wishy-washy, they're hurting the effectiveness of your writing.
Pick and choose when qualifiers are necessary and when they rob your sentence of punch.
Got a qualifier confession? Which qualifiers trip you?