Writing Tip: Delete (almost) all occurrences of "almost"


Why make this change?

There are times to use “almost,” but most of time a new writer uses it, they don’t need it.

If something almost happened, then you need it:

The boat almost sank.

Something happened that caused the boat to come close to sinking, but it didn’t. Okay, “almost,” or “nearly,” or “came close to,” are good.

Consider the example, “The figure is almost life-like.”

What does that mean? “Life-like” means that it looked real, but was not. For example, a portrait or, in the case of our example, a figure or statue.

In other words, inherent in the meaning of “life-like” is the notion that it was not real, the person knew it was not real, yet it had the appearance of being real.

To say that it was “almost life-like” is to say that it was not life-like. So, the “almost” negates the meaning the author is trying to convey, which is that the statue was life-like.

If you are describing a figure that is not life-like, but it was a petty good likeness, then why not simply say so? 

I submit, however, that most new writers who say “The figure is almost life-like,” really mean that it was indeed life-like. So, why not just say that?

Go through your novel and closely examine every instance of your use of the word “almost.” If you delete it, does it change the meaning?

For example, in “The boat almost sank,” removing “almost” turns it into “The boat sank.”