Peeve of the Day

Today’s peeve, gentlethings of the reading audience, is “seemed” (with a guest performance by its close cousin, “appeared.”)

Nine times out of ten, “seemed” is unnecessary.  This means that you’ll encounter ineffective sentences that say things like, “He seemed to be enjoying the party” when “He was enjoying the party” would do — the “seemed  to be” doesn’t add to the force the verb, but detracts from it.  “Appeared to be” works the same way.

Q.   All right then.  So when is it appropriate to use “seemed”?

A.  Mainly, when there is in fact some kind of contradiction between the surface appearance of something — its outward seeming — and its inward reality:

“He seemed to be enjoying the party.  (But inwardly, he was a seething mass of nerves and insecurity.)”

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