Monday, March 9, 2009

Those Pesky Adjectives

“‘When in doubt, strike it out’ is another Twain quote, and it forms the basis of classic writing advice on adjectives (and adverbs, which some advice-givers hate even more!) The main reason is that we tend to throw in words that aren’t doing anything useful.” Jianna Young in When Adjectives are Necessary.
One of the first pieces of writing advice I read was to use strong nouns and verbs and omit adjectives and adverbs, and I did. I don’t worry about it as much now. I still strike 99% of the adverbs that sneak into my first drafts. I keep a few more adjectives, but only after considering alternatives. Sometimes I keep adjectives for the sake of pacing. But the bottom line should be the story. If that adjective (or adverb) doesn’t get in the way, and serves a purpose, why not use it.


Karen H. said...

Great Twain quote! My writing prof. said the same thing about adverbs and I've never forgotten that advice.

BTW - just stumbled upon your site because we happen to share the same last name. :) I'll be back for more writing quotes.

Jim Harrington said...

Welcome, Karen. I'm glad you found the site and hope it helps. Hey, what a great last name you have! :)