View Full Version : Use of the word 'had'

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

December 6th, 2002, 10:45 AM
I am innocently reading through a popular 'get published' type book and I come across the topic of the word 'had'. Much to my amazement, it says to kill the word wherever it is found...
So off I run to my computer and do a quick check on my manuscript, and after finding several hundred examples I turn the damn thing off and decide that clearly the author did not mean it, and was mistaken.
Why such treatment of such a nice and simple word...
Is this three letter word truly such an evil being??? Or is the author of this single book just maligning the word for no reason? Are there 'better' and 'worse' uses?
Example of a sentance in my book: (well a set up sentance and then the guilty party...
However, life was cheap in these parts, and brandy was valuable. Those in the camp had little need for morality or guilt.
Is that so bad? Do I need to purge all of those little buggers? :confused:

December 6th, 2002, 04:00 PM
So it sounds like you've "had" it.:p

(I should be careful, a guy could get kicked out of the forums for jokes that bad.)

I'd be curious to know the reasoning of the author behind his stance. Therein you might find your answer. If however it's an opinion you're looking for, well, I've got lots of 'em.

I suspect the purpose is to cut down on the padding and keep sentences short and to the point. One thing that I've found when I edit is that if I try to cut down my word count, I take out a lot of unnecessary stuff and that keeps the story moving at a faster pace. Perhaps words like "had" tend to be unnecessary at times, by confusing the tense of verbs or generating passive sentences or something.

I don't think there's anything "wrong" with your example sentence. I think this is just a case between "good" and "better." In fact I'd just leave your sentence as is. If you want to take that author's advice, you could be mindful of using "had" while you write, but doing a search and replace through something you've already written just seems excessive.

December 6th, 2002, 04:20 PM
I knew that guy was a quack... I am going to write his publisher and tell them that it was about time he HAD a labotomy... or perhaps he already HAD one.
That will show 'em...:mad: ;)

December 6th, 2002, 05:09 PM
I am innocently reading through a popular 'get published' type book

90% of these type of book I've read are mindless gibering, trying to stifle creativity kai put rules to the unlimited (the human mind and the writen word).

My advice: read them, but don't take them too seriously. Some have something to say. Take what you like, leave the rest to the trash.

Aik Haw
December 6th, 2002, 08:17 PM
I have come across writers who has such a distate to the innocious word HAD that they practically slaughter the word on sight.

The reason I suspect they do so is because they want things to run active as often as possible.

For example, take this two narrative:-

Had he been more careful, he would have saved the girl. Alas, he had too much alcohol the night before to even think straight.

He would have saved the girl were he a little more careful. Alas, he can't even think straight due to too much alcohol last night!!

Now, sentence one with HAD is a little more passive, a little more reflective, whereas sentence two without had, is slightly more active, a little more telly.

Which sentence you use of course would depend on the setting. Sentence one with had would be perfect in this setting:-

Lin Chow tilted his eyes towards the cold stars. Before him, a body lies sprawled. Cold, to touch. Pensive, to watch. He looked away. Had he been more careful, he would have saved the girl. Alas, he had too much alcohol the night before to even think straight.

Alas, sentence one would be dreadful in this setting.

Lin Chow waves his arm towards the cold stars, cursing and screaming at the unfairness nature had wroughted unto him. He steps forward, flinging himself against a cold form. He cursed. Had he been more careful, he would have saved the girl. Als, he had too much alcohol the night before to even think straight.

Just my opinion as to why some people distate the word had so much.

December 6th, 2002, 08:38 PM
Personally, I think using the the term "due to" in writing is awful, as indicated in one of your examples, Aik. I don't have a problem with using had - well I least I never had a problem with it before. I guess it's something I had better watch out for with my future writings...

Umm, should I have used 'had' so often in that paragraph? :D

December 6th, 2002, 11:45 PM
HAD is okay to use. It is when you are writing about the past when it is used more frequently and reads cumbersomely. The common trick is to have a past tense introductory sentence, then go back in time to when it happened, rather than telling now how it happened then with loads of hads.

Aik Haw
December 7th, 2002, 01:59 AM
To each their own :). The horrid word "due to" have snaked it's way into my writing thanks to spending too long writing patient notes!! Yes, must keep a note to self to reduce "due to".

I have found that a lot of "doctrinal truths" proposed by various writing books especially the get published ones are only doctrinal truths to the authors of the text. Anyone trying to take them overseriously are liable to suffer as anyone taking a diet and exercise regime ultraseriously. What is true for others may not be true for you. Writing, like weight loss regimes, are highly dependent on the individual concerned. You can't tell a person who writes in a mentally reflective voice to pump in plenty of actions. Nor can you tell a person whose voice is the "Forward charge!!" type to write in a "Brush the water," style!!