Using Adjectives (#chuckthebland)
Adjectives are words that modify nouns. We use them often in everyday life to describe specific objects using their physical characteristics, ex) a blue pillow, the tall chair, a sketchy deal. When using them in writing, though, its easy to get carried away describing the flowing long blonde shimmering locks of her beautiful golden hair.
Really, adjectives are great, but just like anything in writing, they must be used in moderation. Like adverbs, overusing adjectives is a sign of doubt and lack of confidence in your writing. Editing out adjectives is a great way to concise-ify your writing and make the piece stronger and bolder overall. Here’s some things to consider when cutting out adjectives
- Too many adjectives in a row add unnecessary details that bog down the writing and bore the reader and can also lead to over description and purple prose.
- Unlike the adverb/verb relationship, you can’t always cut out a noun and replace it with a “stronger” one, but you can make sure that the noun you’re using is the one best suited to what you’re trying to describe. Try to be specific with your nouns. Did you use “building” when you meant “corporate skyscraper” or “bungalow”?
- Avoid clichéd adjectives like “rosy cheeks” or “sunny smile”.
- The biggest thing to watch out for is redundancy. Don’t tell us it’s a “small ant”, we already know that ants are small.
- Humans don’t notice everything about a place/scene/anything. We only notice things that are relevant. Is the adjective describing something relevant? No? Cut.
- If you’re using a lot of adjectives because you need to in order to describe the scene and it is relevant, consider expanding it into more sensory imagery.
But when do you use adjectives?
- Try not to use generic adjectives like “pretty”, “nice” or “great”. Don’t use “big” when you mean “enormous”. In writing, every single word counts. Bland adjectives just won’t cut it (unless you really actually do need a bland adjective, but you should be aware of that).
- A rule of thumb: describe, don’t evaluate. Every adjective you use should contribute to the description of the noun in an new way. If you use an adjective it should be one that doesn’t normally apply to the noun it’s modifying.
- Learn to spot the difference between unnecessary adjectives and important details. Specific details should, in some way, contribute to the overall mood, characterization or description while unnecessary adjectives can be cut out without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- Remember that more adjectives, used correctly, can slow down the sentence, lengthen the pace and contribute to a longer, more relaxed tone.
As with all things in writing, it’s about learning to strike a balance between enough description and too much. Relevant details and unnecessary information. Cutting adjectives is one more step towards write concisely and powerfully.
Questions, comments, concerns? Drop us an ask or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.