My friend Jennifer once told me that the first thing she does when proofreading is to remove all the adverbs.  I personally like a good adverb now and then, but I do try to use them sparingly. (Whoops!)  But what about adjectives?  My sister-in-law recently read my book, and she pointed out that I was using very weak, strung-together adjectives to describe my characters.  I read some sections and found a few phrases like 'the tall, blond-haired man', or 'the short, dark-haired woman'.  So what weakens the narrative more:  too many adverbs, or too many adjectives?

June Casagrande, author of It Was the Best of Sentences, it Was the Worst of Sentences, suggests rooting out the adverbs that are not necessary.  Sounds kind of obvious, but extra words can be difficult to spot.  For example, in the sentence 'He formerly worked for the CIA.', the adverb 'formerly' is not needed.  (I wish I could take credit for that example, but that one belongs to June.)  Is there a similar rule for adjectives?  Or is the trick to use the right adjectives?

My friend Laura, who is perhaps the best writer I know, is a master at crafting interesting and descriptive adjectives.  I read a piece of hers recently where she used 'grandmotherly' as an adjective.  I thought this was brilliant!  Grandmotherly conjures up quite a few images and goes way beyond tall or short.

What do you prefer in your writing?  Lots of adjectives?  Pile on the adverbs?  Sparse descriptions, or extravagant, detailed, multi-word phrases? 

 


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