Thinking about my other post on using the word “Literally” to mean “Figuratively” – actually sometimes I think “literally” can work well: when something really does happen, but it’s surprising. “The cat, stuffed with explosives, literally exploded.” Actually, that’s a lame example, but I made it up just now. I’m sure there are better examples. But “literally” can work for emphasis if used with care, I guess.
Something that’s bothering me lately is trying to use words that work. I read something recently – “… suddenly the telephone rang …” Goodness me, how else do phones ring? Gradually? Limpidly? Gotta say I’m just as guilty too, was scanning something I’d written a while back (in my thesis, where I should have been at the top of my game) where my character was staring ” … utterly transfixed …”. Good grief, Sean, surely if you’re transfixed, the utterly is implied? Perhaps the alternative could be something like “vaguely transfixed” or “inattentively transfixed”. Yes, I like that last one better