Thursday, December 16, 2010

Writing Tip (3): Fixing Excess Adjectives, Adverbs & Modifiers


Last week one of the tips talked about getting rid of adjectives and adverbs, and some people thought that was a little strict. Of course, the dude wasn't saying get rid of all of them, just the excess. Here is a little more advice on exactly what one can do to fix up the too-many-adjectives-adverbs-and-modifiers problem...

  • Strengthen your nouns and verbs so that they don't need adjectives and adverbs. You could say "He was a brutal man," or "He was a tyrant"; you could say "She was a kind, charitable woman," or  "She was a saint"; you could say "It was a torrential rain", or "It was a downpour"; you could say "He was running quickly," or "He was sprinting." In the same way that you can find better adjectives or adverbs, at least some of the time you should be able to come up with stronger (or more precise) nouns or verbs that can make adjectives and adverbs unneccesary to begin with. You will be able to cut scores of adjectives and adverbs just by strengthening their subjects, making for a much tighter manuscript.

  • Occasionally substitute a comparison (analogy, simile or metaphor) for an adjective. You can say "He ran a clean, well-organized office," or "He ran his office like a ship"; you can say "The man was tall, heavy, overgrown," or "The man was built like a bear"; you can say "He ate ravenously, without any decorum," or "He ate like an animal". You don't want to replace every adjective or adverb in your manuscript with a comparison, but occasionally it works well, further reducing the number of modifiers and simultaneously filling your manuscript with visuals. It may also reduce the sheer number of words, which makes for a tighter read.

~ The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman

Happy writing, writers!


12 comments:

Grandpa said...

Thanks so much for this Rachel - I never thought of it this way.

I am very well aware that these tips are for writers, but I certainly will take note, even if the only writing I do is in my blog.

Take care and have a Merry Christmas!

Joanna St. James said...

Thanks for the Tips Rach i always look forward to them

Kari Marie said...

Thanks for the tips. I haven't started revising, but I'm writing them down for when I do!

Colene Murphy said...

Wow! I like the tips today! Awesome, thanks Rachel!

Quinn said...

I like the clarifying. Good post and tip! Although I'm not sure I understand "he ran his office like a ship" -- I kinda like the adjectives better in that particular case.

Hart Johnson said...

The 'better verb' one is one I fall on a LOT--though strangley, they don't want you to do it with 'said' *rolls eyes*. I also can't get behind a sentence of description when one adjective or adverb would do--makes me NUTS. I've seen people replace a sentence with a paragraph that means the same sentence and I can't help but think some people are throwing the baby out with the bathwater (I happen to believe that of similes, too about 90% of the time, though I love a good descriptive metaphor). These are great tricks though, for getting our work out there.

Marieke said...

Great tips ^.^

I just wanted to let you know you're a finalist in my blogfest :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the tips! :)

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for the tips, Rach. They're spot-on helpful!

When you have a chance, I've a little something for you at my place.

Abby Minard said...

These are great- it's nice to see actual example to get a feel for the tips. Thanks!

Rachael Harrie said...

Ooh, great tips :)

Rach

Ellie said...

As always, awesome tips!