Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rue the ADJ and ADV

We know the rule—cut the adjectives and adverbs. This is part of a more general rule. Cut the flab. Wordy prose of any kind slows the reader down, keeps them from the story—which is the purpose of our writing. Adjectives are unnecessary when they:
  1. Say what the noun already conveys (terrible tragedy)
  2. Repeat what another adjective says
  3. Intensify something for effect
  4. Reflect a tired cliché
  5. Make your writing fuzzy (sort of lost)
  6. Create telling versus showing (seen often in tags and direction)
  7. State the obvious
  8. Impede simple, clear sentences

Mark Twain wrote—
When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.

William Zinsser (On Writing Well) wrote—
Make your adjectives do work that needs to be done.

My practice for ADJs and ADVs is the same for thats. Read the sentence out loud with OUT the questionable word. If the sentence isn't improved with it—leave it out.

Write Every Day!



  1. Mac, this is great advice. I'm sorry to say that sometimes I breeze right by these pests without even realizing it.

  2. Great rule of thumb! I'll try that.