Let’s face it, everyone uses “get” when they speak. The verb is probably one of the most used words in the English dictionary. So what’s the big deal with all the fid“get”ing over the use of “get” in a manuscript?
Simply put, “get” is a weak verb, generic, a quick go-to which has hundreds of different meanings.
Example: He needs to get to the store and get some food before the kids get home from school.
Not only is this repetitive, but each time “get” is used, a better, more vivid verb can replace it, creating a stronger sentence and clearer picture.
Example: He needs to hurry to the store and buy some food before the kids return home from school.
This sentence paints a clear picture of exactly what’s going on, placing an emphasis on the lack of time before the children return and that they will probably be hungry. Or maybe he doesn’t like to shop with the kids. Whatever the reason, this sentence lends a hand into the precise meaning of the words.
But what if I changed the meanings of the word “get” in the sentence?
Example: He needs to sneak into the store and steal some food before the kids arrive from school.
This completely changes the meaning of the sentence, providing the reader a different take on the word “get” and therefore, creating a completely different scene.
So as you see, it really is important to be specific and make sure you’re writing paints a clear picture as to the meaning of the word.
While it’s okay to use “get” on occasion—especially if a more vivid verb doesn’t appear to be available, a strong writer will seek them out and change as many as possible. On a positive note, use of “get” is always fine in dialogue, but I still look for places that I can switch them out as well.
Whatever you do, don’t allow this pesky word to halt your creativity. Write as many “gets” in your first draft as necessary, just to “get” the story on paper. When you begin to revise, perform a search and carefully study each one for meaning, and determine if the word should be left or changed out.
Your prose will be stronger, and you will be one step closer to an unfor“get”table manuscript.
Rebecca Carpenter is a copyeditor at Kate Foster Professional Editing. She also provides copyediting for Lakewater Press, and her YA novel, Butterfly Bones, is an Official Selection in the New Apple Awards for excellence in indie publishing.