Of human bondage

W. Somerset Maugham

Yesterday we posed a question: Which is the best chosen word in this line?

Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great distance.

It’s not the verb, “was”, as it doesn’t express action but merely introduces the attribute. It might be “voice”, which is the noun that the sentence describes, or “weak”, which is its main feature. It might even be “distance”, a noun that evokes the weakness even better than the adjective can. All the words in the sentence are common, simple. Any reader will understand them.

But the best chosen word is “already”. The moment I read those seven letters, I knew that the kid’s mother was dying.

Imagine the line without that word. It becomes a correct description with no additional meaning. It is the “already” that places us in context by telling us so much with so little.

I noted the lesson and decided I had to share it with you.

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¡Hemos acertado los cuatro! ¡Un gallifante para cada uno!


Somos los empollones de la clase!


¡Que corran los gallifantes, que corran!