Writing Style Outcasts: Adjectives

Not the cool kids at school. This is a series on the aspects of writing style that are bullied.

But they serve a purpose.

Yesterday, I talked about adverbs. Today, I talk about adjectives.

Descriptors like adjectives and adverbs are kicked out the writing style kingdom like lepers.

“Don’t use adverbs!”

“Don’t use adjectives!”

But I’m here to defend them. When it comes to adjectives, it’s fine to use them sparingly. Pick only one or two that stick out the most. Just don’t overdo it. Also, don’t use them if they’re redundant.

The furry dog barked.

The adjective, furry, isn’t needed. When we think of dogs, we think of furriness.

The mangy dog barked.

It’s fine to use the adjective “mangy” here because it adds additional information. It’s not furry, it’s mangy. Gross. It helps paint a better picture.

Now, add a more specific noun and a more powerful verb to create even a more accurate word picture. And while we’re at it, throw in a prepositional phrase.

The mangy German Shepard snarled at us.

See? Now the adjective is hanging out with the noun and verb–the cool kids.

Workshop

Take a section of your work in progress and find the adjectives. Do they really add anything to the picture you’re trying to create? Or are they obvious, like “furry dog”? Delete adjectives that don’t add additional information or replace them with adjectives that do.

Links

For even more advice on writing with adjectives, explore these articles:

Photo by @rrinna from Pexels

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