I’ve been rather surprised recently at the noticeably large number of times I’ve seen words like “rather,” “recently,” and "noticeably" used in copy. Wait, let me be even more unclear and vague so you kind of know exactly where I may or may not be coming from so you can intuit how I probably and quite possibly feel: I’ve not only been rather surprised, and occasionally keenly surprised, I’ve been, I've been – hang on, here it comes – moderately surprised, too. Woo, I’m glad I got that off my chest.
“A recent research report demonstrates…” “Tourism increased considerably…” “Tests scores improved somewhat …” All these phrases tell me is that a) the writers were too lazy to find out the details or, 2) they know the details but the details are less than riveting so they’re hedging their bets by, if not quite lying, at least by hiding the truth considerably:
As the current President Bush once said, “There's an old saying in Tennessee … that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." Got that?
Qualifiers like “rather,” “quite,” "probably," "possibly,” “really,” “a bit,” and the rest signal to readers that what’s ahead isn’t going to add anything concrete to their understanding of the issue at hand – these words are so empty that they take up more space on a page than they add information to a sentence. They imply something fishy’s going on. Instead of telling it like it is, by using qualifiers like these we’re telling it like it isn’t.
Be precise in word choice, do your research and know the details, be honest in your reporting, tell the truth, don’t fudge it, be respectful of your readers and their time and indulgence. And for Pete's sake, learn where Kuala Lumpur is.