Eliminating ‘Crutch’ Words

Part 3 of a 3–part Series

by D. L. Mackenzie

In the previous installment, we discussed replacing weak verbs with accurately expressive alternatives.  But what about those verbs that are so weak they’re almost invisible?  Like prepositions and indefinite articles, they seem to be necessary – if unremarkable – words which cannot be removed without making nonsense of our writing.

Five of these words are verbs, two are adverbs, and all of them are about as expressive as a semicolon.  Let’s start with the verbs, which I have dubbed The Feeble Five: have, be, get, look, and seem.

Weak verbs abound, but have, be, get, look, and seem are five of the frailest. I am not suggesting that you expunge your writing of all of these words, for they all have their place and proper usage and often no substitute will suffice. Nevertheless, I do suggest you examine your sentences for an over-reliance on these often needless “crutch” verbs.

Have

I have an idea. Try to restrict your usage of the word “have” (and its variants “has” and “had”) to their grammatical function in the various “perfect” tenses (for example, “I will have read what you have written”). Rather than using “have” as a synonym for “possess,” use a more descriptive verb instead whenever possible.

For example, “the intruder had a gun.” What does this mean? We know the intruder has possessed a gun at one time or another, but little more. Perhaps he used to own a gun but he traded it for a scooter. Perhaps he still owns it but left it in his other pants, or possibly it fell into a storm sewer somewhere along the way. Assuming our intruder still owns his gun and demonstrates the foresight to bring it along, what does he do with it? Does he conceal it or brandish it? Does he wave it around or take careful aim?

Be

Don’t be a winner–win! Don’t be worried–worry! Don’t be all that you can be–fulfill your potential! In other words, don’t use “be” merely to attribute a characteristic if another verb will convey the idea better. Now, Shakespeare dazzled with “to be, or not to be?” but remember that Hamlet was contemplating suicide, and “be” was used as a synonym for “exist,” not to ascribe an attribute. Hamlet didn’t ask, “to be alive, or not to be alive?”

Get

For an action word, “get” is a bit sluggish, don’t you think? As a synonym for “obtain,” “get” is often a lackluster substitute for more precise or descriptive verbs. As a synonym for the doddering “become,” “get” likewise doesn’t convey much action at all on its own. Why get tired of something when you can simply tire of it? Why get rid of something when you can simply rid yourself of it? Why get started when you can simply start?

Look

She looked sad. She looked dejected. She looked forlorn. She looked defeated. Well, perhaps she might cheer up a bit if we trouble ourselves to describe her manner and expression rather than trivializing her fragile emotional state with another glib look-plus-adjective phrase. Is she crying? Are her eyes red and puffy? Is her head bowed, her shoulders slumped and trembling as she sniffles and sobs into her handkerchief? If we can accurately describe what we see in our mind’s eye, the reader will certainly get the picture.

Seem

As with “look,” “seem” blunts the impact of adjectives and muddles their meaning.  It’s another way of telling instead of showing, which is always bad form.  “She seemed angry” shows us almost nothing and and doesn’t even tell us that much.  Was she shouting and shaking her fists or pacing and gritting her teeth in silence?  The most regrettable characteristic of the seem-plus-adjective construction is its ambiguity, however.  If a character only seems angry, your reader may be justified in thinking that she really isn’t angry but rather just seems that way.

The L-Word

“His head literally exploded!”  No, it didn’t.  It may have figuratively exploded, but chances are it didn’t literally explode.  Over time, “literally” has taken on a meaning which is the precise opposite of what it really means.  This usage of “literally” may work in dialogue because many people do use it that way, as a shorter form of “he was so angry his head exploded, although it didn’t really explode of course, because that can’t happen, but if I say ‘literally’ you’ll get the idea that he was super-duper angry.”  In the end, using “literally” to modify a verb is not only imprecise, it blunts the impact of most verbs nearly as much as the A-word.

The A-Word

“His head almost exploded!”  Using the word “almost” as a verb modifier is just one notch worse than “literally.”  Saying that his head almost exploded is short for “he was so angry his head nearly exploded, although it couldn’t really explode of course, because that can’t happen, and in fact it didn’t happen, but I got to use the word ‘exploded’ without actually having an explosion and I’m hoping you’ll figure out that this means that he was super-duper angry without me actually describing the scene.”

Contrast this with “she almost didn’t do it,” which means she had misgivings but did eventually come through.  Used in this way, “almost” can convey missed opportunity, reluctance, struggle, striving, and potential.  Just don’t use it to mean “sort of, but not really.”

Your Verbs, Your Style

It may be difficult to accept, but if you’re trying to develop “your style,” you’re doing it wrong.  Your style is already there in your head because that’s where the action is. The writing process is largely the process of envisioning what is happening and then describing it in such a way that the reader “sees” roughly the same thing you see. When you envision everything with clarity and faithfully describe it all with carefully selected words, that is your style.

Read through one of your manuscripts with a critical eye and you’re bound to find vague, ambiguous verbs dressed up with adverbs and adverbial phrases, some of which you may have fallen in love with.  Just as an experiment, rewrite a page or two with more descriptive verbs.  You’ll notice the purple prose falls away, leaving the raw, unvarnished truth in a tighter, more vigorous narrative.  Be true to your narrator’s voice, of course, but remember who’s boss.  That is your style.

Consider this an approach to rewriting and self-editing rather than a method of writing, though.  Second-guessing yourself as you write and stopping to agonize over every verb will stymie your muse, so get it all written down before picking it apart. But do pick it apart.  Rewrite with carefully selected action words. Replace empty verbs that boost word count but add little else. By all means, consult a thesaurus for ideas, but always consult a dictionary to ensure proper usage. Don’t understate, but don’t overstate. Don’t fear ingenuity, but don’t let fear of the commonplace push you into unwise substitutions. Above all, strive for precision and clarity rather than clutter and useless ornamentation. With a fertile imagination and a craftsman-like approach, you can tell your story and express yourself fully and succinctly. And that will be your style.

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NEWSFLASH: Time Runs Out For Grudgers

by Lance Chehnmaeyle

Reports have established that the metaphorical pot has indeed been metaphorically stirred, and it has been confirmed that the lines have been drawn in the sand. The veteran master of the funny, Mr. Dani “Grumble” J Caile, and the notorious young Mathew “The Weaver” W Weaver will be facing off next week, and with the Autumn Open already here, tensions run high in The Iron Writers.

A TIW spokesperson remarked that he had “no idea what the young whippersnapper was doing” and that “you can’t even hear what he says half the time with his voice echoing around in that hollow helmet of his.”

The two writers, for so long apparent allies, are now facing off in what has already begun to be called an ‘earth-shattering’ grudge match; indeed, one to go down in history.

“Look, get those cameras away, can’t you see the flash just shines of the armor?” was all young Mr. Weaver had to say on our request for his statement regarding the thrown gauntlet. On being questioned whether or not he was intimidated by the accomplished veteran and his chosen ally, Jordan “Ding-a-ling” Bell, he responded by drawing a sharp, pointy weapon, just prior to the conclusion of our brief interview.

Neither Mr. Caile nor his second, Ding-a-ling Bell, were available for comment earlier this evening, and Miss Mamie “The Mass” Pound, the second on Mr. Weaver’s team, was unapproachable.

Rumors have surfaced that the timing of this Grudge was extremely flawed, as all four writers are involved in The Iron Writer Autumn Tournament as well, which has four of its own elements and a time frame that completely overlaps the Grudge in question.

A TIW spokesperson, when asked about this situation, responded:

“Well, mentioning no names here… but it’s all the fault of a certain someone in a certain suit who everyone knows but no one does. If those writers want to blame someone, it’s him. And you didn’t get this from me.”

We will continue to cover both the Grudge and the Autumn Open in the coming weeks.

In related news, Mr. A Pehst, the reporter present at Mr. Weaver’s interview, is making a full recovery and will be back with his regular column within the week.

Writing Prompt 4

In Week 38 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) involving the following elements.

      1. A flour sack girdle
      2. Bunny, the wonder elephant
      3. The Royal Shakespearian Company
      4. A Roman merchant sailing vessel (If you don’t know what these are, here’s a hint)

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a long story based on these elements, or even a novella or novel, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

A letter to Writer’s Block

by Marie Rossiter

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes the best advice for writer’s block is to just say, “Adios, muchacho!” Here’s a way one may say it:

Dear Writer’s Block,

I know we’ve been together for a long time, but this relationship is over. It’s not working out for me at all. What we have together isn’t healthy. In fact, it’s become toxic.

I’d like to say it’s not you, but let’s be honest. You’re selfish and mean. Anything that simply takes and takes from someone and gives nothing in return, except maybe frustration and a feeling of hopelessness isn’t something I’d consider valuable to have around.

You also have a casual relationship with people. You flow in and out of people’s lives for a while—whether it’s to force a creative break for the people who are blessed with countless creative ideas or as to serve as a temporary stumbling block that gets in the way of reaching a project’s finish line.

I thought I was smart enough to have a casual relationship with you: a fling, if you will. I mean, I’m not a child anymore. I believed I could handle a short-term affair with you. But, that’s not how you operate.

You have no issue with being with other people, but you expect me to remain committed to you. You prey on my insecurities as a writer; make me uncertain that anything I may think or say is not worth of sharing with anyone. How clever of you.

You’ve become a crutch, an enabler.

Your presence is simply too big in my life. I constantly feel I need to crawl deeper within myself to get away from you. I thought I could get past the fear despite having you in my life. Yet, you consistently remind me how scary putting myself out there is.

“What if they hate what you write?”

“Even worse, what if they don’t even care about what you have to say?”

“What about the people you might hurt if you write the truth?”

“Do you have any idea what the hell you’re doing?”

I just can’t work well with you anymore. I need to stop hearing the overly critical voices you’ve put in my head and to start listening to my own.

Somewhere along the way, you went from a casual acquaintance that dropped by once in a while to this thing that has latched on to me and won’t let go. I’m prying your vice grip off of me now so I can move forward.

I refuse to use you as an excuse to run away from what I want to do—no, what I need to do.

It’s time for you to start seeing other people. Actually, I think it would be better if you just locked yourself up and not take out your insecurities on those of us who are trying our best to have our voices heard and our stories told. Why do you find it necessary to stand in the way of such a beautiful calling?

This letter is not only by good-bye to you, but to serve as a warning for other writers whom many think it’s a good idea for a quickie relationship with you. I want them t see you for who truly are.

I know you’ll come back again, probably in the not so distant future, to see how I am and what I’m doing. You’ll use your manipulating words to try to wear me down so I will return to you. You will tempt me and perhaps we may even have a fling for old time’s sake. And, if you’re ok with that, then so am I.

I admit you’ll always be lingering in the back of my mind. I suppose I’ll have to learn to live with that. I wish I could say it’s been nice, but we both know that’s not the truth.

See ya later.

– Marie

Writing Prompt 3

In Week 22 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) involving the following elements.

      1. Hand sanitizer
      2. A succubus
      3. A child’s sled
      4. Semaphore flags (If you don’t know what these are, here’s a hint)

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a long story based on these elements, or even a novella or novel, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Research … like a journalist

Research is important in writing, especially in fiction writing. Though you are making it up, there needs to be the basis of truth in how you tell the story. If you’re writing about a disease, you should know the a little more than the basics of the disease. If you’re writing about the police, you need to know about police protocol.

As a reporter, research is a huge part of my job. From poring through documents to digging deep in interviews of sources, I need to know about my subject before I let the public read my stories. Here are some tips of the trade I’ve learned that can and will help you research.

Wikipedia is ONLY a good starting point
Too often people turn to Wikipedia for research. Hell, that’s typically the first place I go to find background. However, as a journalist I will NEVER (nor can never) rely on the site as a reliable source.

Now 95 times out of 100, what’s on Wikipedia is correct. They have a team that checks any updates, and if it’s a locked account — such as for any high-profile politician (President Barack Obama or Speaker of the House John Boehner) — that is more reliable than a non-locked account. But I still never use the site as a source to attribute because in its nature anyone can change it, edit it and update it.

Stephen Colbert perfectly explained why Wikipedia is unreliable by telling his Colbert Nation that supporters of the former half-term Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin tried to save her absurd explanation that the patriot rang bells and shot guns to warn the British were coming. Then when they changed the Palin followers’ attempt to literally re-write history, Colbert told his viewers to change Wikipedia’s bell’s entry to say it is also what Paul Revere rang to warn the British was coming.

All valid entries have source material at the bottom. Check the footnotes and get the information directly from the source material.

Google searches
I fancy myself as someone who can find just about anything online. Here are three simple search tips to find things you are trying to look for:

  1. Site-specific searches

Open a new web browser window and load www.Google.com.

As an exercise, we’re going to search for the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website. In the matter of three mouse clicks (and potentially two if you know exactly what you’re looking for), you’ll have at your fingertips DHS immigration stats from 2004 to 2013.

In your Google search bar type in: data and statistics site:dhs.gov
(Please note, there is NO spaces on either side of the colon)

Your first result will read, “Data & Statistics | Homeland Security”

But if you look at all the links on the search results, they ALL begin with the http://www.dhs.gov domain. Neat trick, huh?

Click on the first entry of the search results and then you’ll see a hyperlink for the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics

Let’s try another. Type in: foster care stats site:www.childwelfare.gov

Your top result is, “Foster Care Statistics 2012” and all your results are with the http://www.childwelfare.gov.

  1. Document-specific searches

If you thought the site-specific search was neat, you can find any document that was loaded on a publicly accessed website by a similar search.

As an exercise, we’re going to search for some crime statistics. Let’s say you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for but you want to find some type of crime statistic. In your Google search field, type in: police calls for murder filetype:xls
(Again, note the lack of a space on either side of the colon)

All of your search results will be Microsoft Excel files.

Change your XLS to PDF and see what you get.

Again, pretty neat, huh?

Now go ahead and combine the site-specific search and the document-specific search. Say you want to look on the United Way of Cincinnati site for a pdf. Type in your search like this: site:www.uwgc.org filetype:pdf

What if you want government data or statistics on guns? Type this: guns site:.gov filetype:xls

Now if you want to search for a recent document, say something that was posted last week, last month, the last 24 hours, or even between Jan. 1, 2011 to Jan. 1, 2012, the search engine’s search tools (Google’s time refining tool is under Search Tools, and Yahoo and Bing will blatantly reference the time refining options)

The search possibilities are endless.

  1. Other types of searches

You want to search for a specific phrase? Put quotes around the words you want to search. Now this doesn’t always work, and Google will try to suggest a search without it but select the options that force the search with the quotation marks around your words. And if the phrasing you had didn’t bare any fruit, try another phrasing.

Say you need some realistic property valuations. Go to the county auditor’s site. They have recorded online the property records in the county you are in. If your county is small, then search for a larger county. They will have property values, what properties sold for in the past and what jurisdictions the property is in (such as the municipality or township and school district).

You want to do some deeper digging? Well search deeper. The mainstream search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo will give you surface-level results. But you want to search the “deep web.”

Now deep-web.org will give you some information on deep web searches. This type of search will search a bit deeper into the World Wide Web. Now I don’t personally use the deep web searches because everything I need I can find using Google and the above document- and site-specific searches.

Interviewing tips
If you are going to be writing a book, you may want to or need to talk with some people in order to gain an insider’s point of view for a character, how something works or some location you need a native’s perspective but you can’t get to. Here are three basic rules when it comes to interviewing someone:

• Don’t ask a “yes” or “no” question. You will get a “yes” or “no” answer.
• Try to ask the same question at least one different way.
• If you don’t understand something, ask a follow up.

Now the last of the three rules is self-explanatory (or at least I hope it is) so I won’t get into that one. Not asking a “yes” or “no” question should also be self-explanatory, but it can be difficult. If you formed a question and read it aloud you may think to yourself, “Yeah, that’s something he or she would answer.” It probably isn’t if it’s in a form a question. So don’t ask questions. Have them tell you about something. For example, “Mr. Jones, tell me about the time you first saw that UFO. Describe how you felt when it first appeared.”

Or, “Explain how this blob moves like that in that lava lamp.”

My favorite question is the “Idiot’s Guide” question. “Break it down for me. Give me the Idiot’s Guide version to (insert subject here).”

Now you may find yourself asking a traditional question, and you’re supposed to. But bring out your inner 3-year-old and ask more “Why’s” than any other type of question because that inherently will elicit some lengthier response (and if they’re a smart ass and says because that’s the way it is, remember your inner 3-year-old – “Why?”).

Asking the same question a different way is an old journalist’s trick to try to get a subject to answer the question, and to make sure their answers are consistent. Too many times a politician or a person trying to hide something will give an answer to something and if they’re hiding something, they may not remember what they said the first time.

But it’s a skill to learn how to ask the same question two or three different ways without them thinking they just answered the question. For example, “Mrs. Wallaby, talk about your experiences as a child working with apes.” After you ask a few other questions, come back with, “So, how do children learn by working with apes.”

Now those two questions may seem like they will elicit different answers, and they’ll probably will vary in some manner, but at their core they are getting Mrs. Wallaby to talk about working with apes as a child, or from a child’s perspective.

NEWSFLASH: Demise of the Deadly Duo?

by “Scallywag”

Rumours are spreading that the sudden appearances of the ludicrous and annoying relays initiated by the procrastinating TIW partnership of Mathew W Weaver and Dani J Caile within the TIW Facebook community is at an end. With their upcoming Earth-shattering no-holds barred Grudge match, seconded by Mamie Pound and Jordan Bell, and the recent incarceration of Master Weaver into the world of reality, it may mean that their impromptu relays will become a mere irritating memory for those inflicted.

Who can forget their first literary “soiree” into the genre, a story of hair-raising proportions, “The Goatee of Neil (Sayatovich).” Other victims of their unrehearsed tomfoolery include Jordan Bell, “The Rotation,” the two DLs (Zwissler and Mackenzie in the *insert adjective* “The Duel of the DLs”), with a little help from Amanda Rotach Huntley, Mamie Pound, “Mamie Mass,” with guest appearances from Jordan Bell and Tony himself, Tony Jaeger,”The Iron Writer Party line,” and even some foolishness amongst themselves, “The Cat and the Monkey.” Will this insanity all be a thing of the past?

While Master Weaver was unavailable for comment due to an increase in refreshments consumption and a rise in the need for shoe polishing around the office, Mr Caile, deep in a comatose state from lack of book sales and blog hits, stated that “it’s mainly a question of the (TIW) community. If something happens to catch mine, or Mathew’s, eye, we give each other the “heads up.” TIW is filled with interesting, eccentric and overbearing people. It’s only a matter of time before one of them sparks the imagination and our keyboards pound to the sound of clicking. Richard Russell is overdue … but nothing can beat that first time. Maybe a break would do us all some good …”

Sufferers of Weaver and Caile’s nonsense commented on the phenomena, mentioning that it was “an honour” and a “mark of respect” to be the stooge in the pairs’ absurdity, and possibly even funny.

A TIW spokesman, when asked about the Deadly Duo, said “Who?” It seems that this infamous twosome is already lost in the threads of time …

 

Writing Prompt 2

In Week 7 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A 1940 Ford Farm Tractor
  2. A Space Monkey
  3. A Nursery Rhyme
  4. Sushi

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Finding the time

By M.D. Pitman

One thing that we as writers with day jobs and families struggle with is finding the time to practice our craft. I’m not going to give a foolproof strategy that will consistently give you the secret to finding time away from the job, away from the spouse and kids to write a few hundred or even a few thousand words at a time. But what I can tell you is what works for me, and has worked for many others.

I still struggle to find the time, mainly because I’m a reporter for a daily newspaper in a highly competitive area between Cincinnati and Dayton. I’m writing all day during the week, and when it’s my turn, occasionally on the weekend. Then I have a wife with a job that has its own stressful aspects and two attention-starved young kids.

Bottom line, it’s a constant struggle. I could sugarcoat it, but I can’t. I won’t. Writing is not for the weak-minded or weak-willed.

It is really discouraging when I don’t have the energy, time, desire or every combination of the three to work on any one of my personal writing projects. But here are a few things I do, that more likely than not, will work for you in order to keep the writing muse content and not constantly yelling at you for not putting pen to paper or fingertips to keys.

  1. “Write” during your commute.

First, unless you’re taking a bus or taxi, or you’re a passenger in a carpool, I’m not suggesting you actually write while commuting to work. But keep your story in your head, and think about the story and what needs to happen next.

When I arrive to work or home, I’ll spend a few minutes using my speech-to-text feature to record my thoughts. I then will email that text to myself so I can copy and paste that information into my work in progress.

Most of us have a smartphone that has this feature, including a memo recorder. But if you are more of a luddite and don’t have a smartphone, have a pad of paper and pen handy in your glove box or center console and jot some points down.

Now this can be somewhat of a mindless activity, but that’s okay. Mindless activities allow minds to wander, and wandering minds are wondering minds.

  1. Write during your lunch break

Most of us have a half hour lunch break, and some others have the luxury of an hour break. Take that time to have a working lunch. Now as a reporter, I often eat and work at the same time (I know, I’m giving my work free hours), but it can be done. It’s just a matter of you doing it.

And if you can, take a late lunch. Either at the office or if you go to the local fast food restaurant, you will have a quieter environment if you work after the traditional lunch time hour. And fewer distractions equal more opportunity for productivity.

  1. Ask for time to write

It’s okay to ask for time to write some day during the weekend. But when you do that, unless the spouse and kids leave the house, you’ll want to make sure you leave the house. If your spouse and/or kids know your home – and no matter how much they try to give you the time – you will be disturbed.

Now, you probably won’t get the OK all the time because life does get in the way. But you will get the time if you give your spouse time away from the kids. That will also give you brownie points with the spouse if you offer them “time off” first.

  1. Delay your TV time

Now, I know television time is sacred in many households, but you will happy that you took time to step away from the television to write. Besides, your show will be on in repeats, and most people have a DVR to either record the show or watch it on demand.

There are exceptions. For me, it’s the NFL and college football.

  1. Turn off the Internet

There is always some level of truth in writing, so research is important. But get that out of the way before you write, or after your writing session. Because as we all know, like bugs attracted to light at night, the Internet is attracted to wasting your time.

Now this may not be practical all the time, as most of us are addicted to the World Wide Web (after all, you are reading this online).

Oh, and while you’re separating yourself from your internet, turn off the phone, too. I know, that’s like cutting off an appendage, but you need to remove all temptation in order to maintain your focus on your work.

Remember, writing is your passion and–while most will see it as a hobby–you cannot treat it as such because it’s not. Treat it as your second job with no set hours, a job you need to accomplish whenever and however you can.

NEWSFLASH: Iron Writers in a Bristle

by “Scallywag”

Despite the best efforts of those aware of this unsettling fact, there has been a recent surge in facial hair growth within the confines of the TIW Facebook community. Knowledge of such a blight can be gained by those visiting the members section of this infamous secret group, with profile pictures filling up with beards, broomhandles and bristles.

Experts revealed today that this popular writing fraternity is overrun with hair follicles and since the clash between Mathew W Weaver and Jordan Bell back in Challenge 68, many more active members have begun to move over to the pro-facial androgenic hair section of society as a whole.

Looking closer at this disturbing problem on an individual level, it can be seen that there is definitely a positive thinking movement for and towards facial hair, those members affected preferring mainly full or circle beards over goatees and balbos. Jordan Bell, ring-a-ding-a-ling, once mentioned in a Facebook comment of growing two beards on one face, while Mathew W Weaver, his voice echoing within his suit of armour, stated on a blog post that shaving off his beard for his first step into the real world was “a sad, humbling experience.” Many still blame the appearance of Neal Sayatovich’s green goatee within the group as the initial catalyst, but this charge cannot be fully validated.

The list of those newly or already affected within the group is growing by each day. Long term member M.D. Pitman and founding member himself, Mr Brian Rogers, have a smattering of facial hair, the latter adopting a more charismatic greying Hemingway look, while newer members such as Richard Russell, Aaron Gord and Christopher Bays promote more traditional full beards. DL Mackenzie, a renowned and well-respected member of the community champions a chevron, or broom moustache, while younger members of the TIW association seem to support smaller follicular statements: Thomas Lankin wears bumfluff which resembles a beard, Christopher A Licaardi leans closer to a balbo than a circle, and recent profile pictures of Tony Jaeger show that the smooth-faced Salt Lake City Elvis Presley lookalike has moved over to a fully-fledged goatee.

There are some who are as yet untouched by this affliction, namely Brick Marlin who has no hair on his head at all, but there are growing fears that this deadly pestilence may spread to other as yet untouched parts of the community, even amongst the non-male members, such as Mamie Pound, Amanda Rotach Huntley, DL Zwissler and Chris Garrison, all known for ‘big hair’.

Nonetheless, there are those who see a common analogy with this and Samson’s long curly locks, especially after Jordan Bell’s recent dominance over wispy Mathew W Weaver, and that there is a correlation between the growth of facial hair and an increase in competence of writing skills. Dani J Caile, long standing member and scourge of the TIW group said that he “shave(s) every day and look at the results.” The jury is still out on that one. An unnamed and disappearing-into-the-distance follicular expert and part-time Freudian analyst in passing stated that “such a rise in the existence of hair on a person’s countenance can only mean a greater connection is needed between the subject and their mother and so he, or she for that may be the case in such times, should…( incoherent babble).”

A TIW spokesman, when asked to respond to this growing bristling crisis, said “I don’t know what all the fuzz is about, it’s only hair.”