Lisa’s question: “I would appreciate learning about the correct use of the expression ‘very much.’ I see it often, and it bugs me, but I don’t know why. Examples include ‘it’s very much a work in progress …’ or ‘It is very much appreciated.’”
BizWritingTip response: “Very” and “much” are intensifiers. They allow you to express a condition above the norm.
I was very late. (more than just late)
It was much appreciated. (more appreciated than normal)
According to The Gregg Reference Manual, the only time you should combine “very” and “much” is when the past participle expresses action rather than a description.
Examples (correct – expresses action)
We are very much opposed to the plan.
It is very much appreciated.
However, you shouldn’t say “It’s very much a work in progress” as this is a description.
Note: Most formal business writing books don’t recommend using either “very” or “much” — and certainly not “very much” — as the words are immeasurable. Your definition of “very” may not have the same meaning as my “very.”