Archive for April 6th, 2010

Fewer Adjectives, Better Writing: Tip #6

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Keep adjectives to a minimum.

When used judiciously, adjectives can enhance the reading experience, but their overuse is legendary, and can be a tip-off to the writer’s inexperience. This is particular true when describing a person, place, or thing. Writers notoriously over-describe characters in their initial introduction.

An old man can be depicted as “gray-haired, hunched over, with fading blue eyes, heavily-veined hands, and a missing front tooth.” But Hemingway put his minimalist style to the test in his short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” in which he referred to an old man simply as “clean,” leaving you, the reader, to fill in the blanks from your own imagination. 

A place can be seen as “a stately, proud, 50-story glass and concrete edifice” or it can be “a towering monolith.”

An automobile might be portrayed as “a sporty, shiny, fire-engine red, diesel-fueled British-made compact convertible” or a “sleek, imported dream car.” Your choice.