It is a great mistake to suppose that exaggeration makes a person more agreeable, or that it adds to the importance of her statements. The value of a person’s words is determined by her habitual use of them. “I like it much,” “It is well done,” will mean as much in some mouths, as “I am infinitely delighted with it,” “’Tis the most exquisite thing I ever saw,” will in others. Such large abatements are necessarily made for the statements of these romancers, that they really gain nothing in the end, but find it difficult sometimes to gain credence for so much as is really true; whereas, a person who is habitually sober and discriminating in his use of language, will not only inspire confidence, but be able to produce a fine effect by the occasional use of a superlative.
Fidelity and exactness are indispensable in a narrative, and the habit of exaggerating destroys the power of accurate observation and recollection which would render the story truly interesting. If, instead of trying to embellish her account with the fruits of her imagination, a young lady possessed the power of seizing upon the points best worth describing, and could give an exact account of them, she would be far more entertaining than any exaggeration could make her; for there is no romance like that of real life, and no imaginings of an inexperienced girl can equal in piquancy the scenes and characters that are every day presented to our view. Extravagant expressions are sometimes resorted to in order to atone for deficiencies of memory and observation; but they will never hide such defects; and an habitual use of them lowers the tone of the mind, and leads to other deviations from the simplicity of truth and nature.
Another way of falsifying a narrative, is by taking for granted what you do not know, and speaking of it as if you did. This jumping at conclusions is a fruitful source of false reports, and does great mischief in the world. Let no one imagine that she is walking conscientiously, who is not in the habit of discriminating nicely between what she knows to be fact and what she only supposes to be such.
The frequent use of some favorite word, or phrase, is a common defect in conversation, and can only be guarded against by asking your friends to point it out to you, whenever they observe such a habit; for your own ear, having become accustomed to it, may not detect it. Some persons apply the epithets glorious or splendid to all sorts of objects indiscriminately, from a gorgeous sunset to a good dinner.