Beware of Also

You won’t hear it from anyone else, so maybe it’s just one of my idiosyncrasies. But I think also is a dangerous word for writers.

Writing should build to a climax. “Also” sounds like an afterthought. Nothing weakens a piece more than an “also” idea in the last paragraph. There’s a “by the way” feel just when the piece should be driving to a strong finish.

Instead of “also,” try to work your idea into the paragraph – or use a strong transition like “worst of all,” “best of all,” or “most important.”

We had a wonderful time touring the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We also visited Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.  WEAK

We had a wonderful time visiting the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.  STRONG

This version builds to a climax:

We had a wonderful time visiting the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. But what I remember best was Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.  CLIMAX

I try to apply the same principle to conversations and emails. It’s deflating to call someone and say “Congratulations on your award! By the way, can I borrow your punch bowl for a party I’m throwing this weekend?”

Eiffel Tower At Night Paris France

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4 thoughts on “Beware of Also

  1. AvatarDarrell Turner

    Jean, I understand your comment about using “also” in the middle of a sentence in a paragraph, whether it is a conclusion or elsewhere. What do you think about using the word to introduce a sentence providing more information for emphasis. Here is an example:

    Write with Jean is a blog that provides practical information on punctuation, spelling, grammar, and style. Also, Jean is an experienced coach who is very willing to answer questions and publish comments from her readers.

  2. Avatarballroomdancer Post author

    Hi, Darrell! It’s always great to hear from you. I like your use of “also” (and thanks for the compliment!). In general I’d say that it’s better to try to make the second sentence climactic: Darrell Turner always makes perceptive comments. What’s even better is that I often learn something new from his feedback.

  3. Avatarja

    Re the deletion of “Any given day,” I believe the change alters the meaning. The “always” replacing the deleted phrase implies 24-hours a day, seven days a week. “Any given day” is a concrete fact that does not need to be reinterpreted to be correct.

  4. Avatarballroomdancer Post author

    I think you’re saying that “always” can be used only in a 24-hour-a-day sentence. In my experience, people use “always” to mean “every time,” and there could be a long space between occurrences. For example, my husband and I always stay at the same B&B in Savannah. Sometimes it’s two years between visits.
    So I think you can use “always” when you talk about the Learning Center, even though it’s not open 24/7. “Mrs. Wilson always opens the door at 7:30 AM.” She doesn’t do it on Saturdays and Sundays, when the Learning Center is closed.
    I don’t think “any given day” makes the sentence more precise – and it’s an outdated usage that I don’t recommend.
    I just looked up “always” at Dictionary.com. Your preference matches their second definition: “all the time; continuously; uninterruptedly.”
    The way I used “always” in today’s Quiz sentence matches their first definition: “every time; on every occasion; without exception.”

    Honesty compels me to tell you that my husband agreed with you! He suggested a better sentence: “Often five or six students are waiting for the math tutor.” He thinks always means at any time the learning center is open, and that’s not likely to be true.

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