#3: A Something About "Something About"

Next Sunday, June 9th, 2013, a bunch of people on the internet will be simultaneously reading These Days and discussing it live via Twitter, as part of my friend Diana’s 24-Hour Book Club. If the book’s been sitting in your queue, this might be a good opportunity to crack it open. I read the previous month’s book with the group and posted some thoughts here, and I’ll be following along next Sunday and asking and answering questions about my own book.

Writing the review reminded me of a phrase I’ve been trying to eliminate from my prose – the phrase “something about.” As in, “There’s something about …” or “something about the way (s)he …”

Clarity of thought is monumental for any communicator, and “something about” suggests the opposite of clarity. It suggests you haven’t thought through the quality or phenomenon you’re describing – what is it about the way her hair gleams in the moonlight that approximates Arizona? What is it about how he views human interaction that also makes him the perfect sushi chef?

“Something about” is a phrase for rough drafts and top-of-the-head conversation, for when you’re still working out what that something is. Once it’s there on the page, it should be an orange flag that screams, This need more thought.

Once you’ve eliminated “something about” from your prose, once you no longer find yourself holding onto it, and instead reaching for the sharper thought, the more precise idea, then you can bring “something about” back. You can deploy it consciously, for effect, in the dialogue of a character who lacks that mental clarity. Or, as a mask to obfuscate that which you yourself know but intend to hide, for the time being.