What goes for a lot, goes for a little too. In creative, descriptive, or any kind of writing where you need to vary your vocabulary, you’re going to need a few synonyms, more than a bit, I fear.

There just don’t seem to be as many synonyms as for ‘a lot’. There are a handful of decent ones though – that’s a good one when you’re trying to make the best of something, or a select few if you’re being really optimistic. And after all, sometimes a small amount is a good thing: you wouldn’t want more than a sprinkling of cinnamon on your cappuccino, would you? A smidgen of charm is often enough to get you out of trouble, a spoonful of sugar can help the medicine go down (though come to think of it, Miss Poppins, not much else), a hint of garlic can improve a dish immeasurably – I should really tell my sister – and just a soupcon (or, properly written, a soupçon) of chilli can do wonders. A dash of tabasco, even? Or just a pinch of salt?

Some words show there just isn’t enough. There’s a paucity of good manners in schools these days, and a lack of grammatical knowledge. Others show that only a little remains, like the remnants of Viking words in northern dialects, or the remains of the Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall, or the traces of blood the CSI found on the knife.

Well, that’s it for now. You’ll just have to resort to adjectives if you want to describe small amounts in other ways than this disparate, sorry collection, this ragbag of mean little words. Or you could follow the advice at the end of the ‘a lot’ post and go metaphorical: the torrent of shoppers rushing through the streets last week was reduced to a trickle once their credit card bills arrived. Well that wasn’t such a sorry lot after all. As almost no-one says these days, many a mickle makes a muckle.


Describe an abandoned village. Use a variety of synonyms for ‘a few’.


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