EVEN: JUST’S SNEAKY COUSIN

When you hear the word EVEN, what immediately pops into your mind?

EVEN vs ODD (numbers)? EVEN STEVEN (an equal distribution)? An EVEN, flat surface? EVEN THOUGH (although, despite)? or EVEN SO (regardless)?

Each of those interpretations is 100% valid. But in literary terms, the four-letter word EVEN on its own is primarily used to provide emphasis. But once invited into sentences, it has a sneaky tendency to infect multiple sentences without a writer’s conscious intention. Is it any wonder EVEN and JUST are thick as thieves?

For this 2nd post in the Sneaky Words series (if you missed the 1st post about JUST, click here). I’ll help you evaluate when it’s appropriate to let EVEN stay and when you should kick it to the curb. In the following three examples, it helps to imagine a 16-year-old boy responding to his father’s complaints. Here’s an image from Newsweek to help you imagine the confrontation:

EXAMPLE #1:
I moved the lawn and EVEN cleaned out the garage! Please let me go to the beach with my friends! 

STAY? If the father has repeatedly been asking his son to clean out the garage, or knew it needed to be done but considered it an impossible task, then yes, emphasis is warranted. 

LEAVE? If this is the first time this point is mentioned, hit delete. “I mowed the lawn and cleaned out the garage! ” is more direct and appropriate in this case. 

EXAMPLE #2: 
I don’t EVEN get off work until 10:30PM. I’ll be too tired to take out the trash when I get home.

STAY? If this is the last point the boy is making to strengthen his case, then let EVEN stay.

LEAVE? If this is the only point the boy is making, EVEN isn’t necessary. Try this instead: 
I don’t get off work until 10:30. I’ll be too tired to take out the trash when I get home.”

EXAMPLE #3:
“The score was tied at 3-3 even, and I scored two of the runs!”

STAY? Nope! Tied = EVEN, so this is a case of unnecessary repetition. Scored and score are mighty similar, too. 

LEAVE? Yes!

EXAMPLE #3 REVISED:
“We tied at 3-3, and I scored two of the runs!” 

I hope you agree that eliminating repetitive words improved the sentence and didn’t change the meaning!

As with JUST, you can root out overuse of EVEN by drilling down to Find under the Edit menu in Microsoft Word. The reason I highlighted these two sneaky words is that I see them overused quite frequently, both in unpublished and published works. I recently began reading an e-book with well-drawn characters, intriguing world building, and a fresh take on a popular Disney story. Sounds great, right?!? Unfortunately, glaring overuse of EVEN marred my enjoyment and made me abandon the book halfway through. So this is my advice to writers everywhere: before you hit submit, do JUST and EVEN CHECKS of your work! 

I’ll leave you with this question to ponder. What words do YOU tend to overuse?
Don’t be afraid to share – I guarantee you aren’t the only one. Who knows: it may even just warrant a third post in my Sneaky Words series!

19 comments

    1. Thank you for your response! Class is a collective noun, so as you point out, entire is repetitive and unnecessary. Maybe I could do a post about repetitive words like that! Food for thought.

      Like

  1. I feel like these sneaky words you’ve been sharing also undermine how confident the person sounds when making their point. Like they feel the need to emphasize as much as possible, and that insecurity shines through in the word choice. They sound much more confident keeping their statement simple.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Hilary,
      Yes, direct language can make characters sound more confident. But it can also mean they are a person who speaks pointedly or sparingly, or a character in a high intensity, dangerous situation. Differing speech patterns is a great way to differentiate characters. I.E., speaking with few words, being verbose, talking formally, or talking with slang. EVEN so, I don’t think relying on words like EVEN and JUST are the way to accomplish this!

      Like

      1. All good to keep on mind. I use “just” too much, but when writing dialog these little unnecessary words may be part of the character speech pattern. Right?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Deb,
      JUST is the one I have to watch out for, too! But I JUST read another YA novel jam-packed with EVEN. This one was so good, I finished the 3-book series. But, I can honestly say that EVEN was only necessary about 20% of the time.

      Like

    1. Marti,
      I can’t tell you how many times I delete “so” when I’m typing emails! It’s my “go to,” apparently!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s