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Is 'exit' a lazy verb?

Robin Pentecost

In recent years, writers have been using 'exit' as a verb almost compulsively instead of 'leave' or more descriptive verbs for changing location. I have never thought the Exit sign was a command to walk, run, leap or escape a room. I know that there's nothing I can do to reverse this tendency, but think of all the wonderful, descriptive phrases we have missed.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  joyR  red61544
Switch Blayde

@Robin Pentecost

What's wrong with "He exited the building"?

It brings up the image of someone walking out of the building.

Whereas "He left the building" just means he was no longer in it or even in the vicinity of it.

Ross at Play
Updated:

I would agree that 'exit' should not be used as a mere synonym of 'leave'.

I would probably want to reserve 'exit' as a verb for situations where the act of leaving was terminating something else. For example, I might use 'exit' instead of 'leave' when someone leaves a room after a business meeting collapsed, but not if it had succeeded.

It may be the sound of the word which conveys a sense of finality to me.

StarFleet Carl

What about when Snagglepuss does it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3-a4qWCtIg

joyR

@Robin Pentecost

"Elvis exited the building" simply does not convey the same feeling of loss compared to "Elvis has left the building".

Not that I'm in any way an Elvis fan.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@joyR


"Elvis has left the building".


That has always sounded to me like Elvis dumped the building like a cheating girlfriend. :)

You leave your wife, you leave an open area, but you exit an enclosed space.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@Dominions Son

He burst from the building when the door slammed him in the ass. He found out that being heedless was a poor substitute for learning in advance that doors sometimes move faster than a careless exit.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@graybyrd

Burst from the building sounds like he went through the door without opening it first. That would make it kind of hare for the door to hit him in the ass. :)

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

What's wrong with "He exited the building"?

It brings up the image of someone walking out of the building.


He exited the building via a tenth storey window and, after a heroic confrontation with the concrete pavement below, lost. ;)

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

He exited the building via a tenth storey window and, after a heroic confrontation with the concrete pavement below, lost. ;)


He exited the building via a tenth story window with the assistance of someone who decided to defenestrate him and, after a heroic confrontation with the concrete pavement below, lost. ;) :)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

Was any glass broken in the process? ;)

AJ

Crumbly Writer

I wouldn't classify exit as a 'lazy' verb, but there aren't many decent alternatives. "Vacated" doesn't exactly leave me breathless either (vacate is something you do to empty your bowels). The fact is, there aren't many 'active' words for 'leave'. "left" is nice, because it has a nice note of finality, but you can only use it so many times.

red61544

@Robin Pentecost

I think "exit" is best used as a verb in the imperative: "Please exit to your left." Written English should not sound awkward when spoken. "He exited the building" sounds awkward! Also, it is not actually synonymous with "leave". Imagine this ad: "American Express! Don't exit home without it!" With that, I'll exit this thread and leave you in peace!

Replies:   REP
REP

@red61544

Don't exit home without it!"


Leave and exit are two very different actions. That is why it sounds wrong.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

Leave and exit are two very different actions. That is why it sounds wrong.


Which is why I said there's a place for both. If you exit the building, I imagine the character walking out of the building, say through a door. But if he left the building, I see him as walking away from it or is no longer in it (as in "Elvis has left the building."

Replies:   awnlee jawking  Joe Long
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Thread drift alert!

"Elvis has left the building."


Didn't Elvis once come second in an Elvis-lookalike competition?

Today's writers' group had a writing exercise, after which our efforts were all mixed up and given to other people to read out as a 'guess the author' exercise'.

I was voted the second most likely author of my own story. (The guy voted most likely author is a better writer than me so, in a way, it was a compliment.) In turn, I was voted the most likely author of someone else's work. I was rather miffed at that: he's a good writer but I thought our styles were significantly different.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

In turn, I was voted the most likely author of someone else's work. I was rather miffed at that: he's a good writer but I thought our styles were significantly different.

You should still take it as a compliment, as they're probably focusing on the presentation (showing you reveal the character's emotions in their actions, rather than you both write the same way). Instead, I'd look at what the other writers strengths are, and contrast them with your own strengths and how you expressed those in the selected passage. It might provide insights you've previously overlooked.

Joe Long
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Which is why I said there's a place for both. If you exit the building, I imagine the character walking out of the building, say through a door. But if he left the building, I see him as walking away from it or is no longer in it (as in "Elvis has left the building."


Exit is the act of moving out of the confines of the building. Leave means to be away from.

Then there's, "Please vacate the premises."

Harold Wilson

@Switch Blayde

I would argue that this falls into the "telling" vs "showing" classification.

If you can't come up with a more tactile verb than exit, you problably should simply skip over the sentence or clause.

"Outside, he ..."

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Harold Wilson

"Outside, he ..."


I don't think exited is telling.

You also need to be careful of suddenly having the character outside. Years ago I was called on that. I had some people standing outside a mansion and the next paragraph had them standing on the marble floor looking around. I never had them open the door and go inside.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I don't think exited is telling.


How would you 'tell' that someone exited a building?

A piece of advice passed around my writers' group was to omit the mundane details that everyone takes for granted. The classic case is starting chapters with an alarm clock sounding, the protagonist waking up, getting showered and shaved and dressed then having breakfast.

If you can swerve the discontinuity, I'd say that opening a door and entering a property falls into the same category, especially if the character has entered the property before.

AJ

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I don't think exited is telling.

Excited is a verb, and a verb by definition is an action. As long as the action is naturally visible, the used verb cannot fall in the category of 'telling'.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

If you can swerve the discontinuity, I'd say that opening a door and entering a property ...

I agree. I often find details like that as engrossing as descriptions of the production of manure. :-)
I think some here tend to misinterpret the intended scope of comments by others about looking for things like that to cut out of stories. Those comments are not inconsistent with using a descriptive style of prose and providing many unessential details in a story.
A new author, IliaVolyova, is currently posting his first lengthy story, The Boy Downunder. It's a fabulous read and he has a rare natural talent: he had not even attempted to write his first words of fiction until this year.
His writing style is bordering on florid and he provides many details that aren't essential to the story, but I see them them as adding to the experience of reading his story. However, I can detect evidence he is avoiding including details that don't add to readers' experiences, but instead merely explicitly state intermediate steps in processes readers can to safely assumed to be capable of inferring by themselves.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

If you can swerve the discontinuity, I'd say that opening a door and entering a property falls into the same category


They're talking about the boring bits as Alfred Hitchcock said, "Drama is life without the boring bits."

But there's a continuity factor. You can have a scene change to do that, or have a transition. In the previous example you have to transition the character from outside to inside. He can't magically be inside in the next sentence. "He entered the house" is all that's needed, but it would probably be more like, "He entered the house and stopped on the marble floor. The staircase before him..."

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