Junk Words

“The research is hazy, if not totally silent, about exactly where the amber finds come from.”

“Blood Amber”

New Scientist, Graham Lawton 4 May, 2019


Don’t use words that you don’t need. How is “totally silent” different from “silent”? If something is silent, it makes no noise. Totally making no noise does not increase its silence. Likewise, “exactly where” is no different from “where.” 


In many cases, you may find that adverbs can be safely removed from your sentences without doing harm.


This sentence also suffers from the crime of using a noun as an adjective and a verb as a noun. This leads to a confusing construction. The phrase “where the amber finds” leads the brain to expect the word “amber” to be a subject and “finds” to be a verb. Encountering the phrase “finds come” or “come from” sets up a dissonance that causes us to double back to see what the writer intended. 


Better: “The research is hazy, if not silent, about where the amber comes from.”