It’s pretty common to use “pretty” to mean “somewhat” in ordinary speech, but it should be avoided in formal writing, where sometimes “very” is more appropriate. The temptation to use “pretty” usually indicates the writer is being vague, so changing to something more specific may be an even better solution: “a pretty bad mess” might be “chocolate syrup spilled all over the pizza which had been dumped upside down on the carpet.”

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