Thursday, 23 June 2016

Kill All Adjectives: Rules of Writing No.2

The Rule
Delete all adjectives.

Why?
She had beautiful shiny blonde hair with lovely sparkling blue eyes.  She wore a pretty pink frilly dress and dainty little white slippers. Like buses, adjectives often come in threes.  They clutter up your prose without adding much information, apart from the fact that you like cliches.

When to break The Rule

Description - Well chosen adjectives create pictures: "At that very moment he was toiling in the cool dark of his study, the heavy chenille curtains closed against the summer, lost in his work, work which never came to fruition, never changed the world or made his name." (Kate Atkinson, Case Histories)
Without the adjectives the description would lack atmosphere. None of the adjectives used are elaborate or unusual but they describe the study, and his work, with great economy.

Style - A sparse, adjective-light prose style is currently fashionable.  It wasn't always - think of those heavyweights like Charles Dickens or Anthony Trollope.  An adjective-heavy style might suit your personal style or genre.

2 comments:

Penny A said...

I risk a few adverbs along the way for magazine stories... but then always have to go back and delete many of them! Makes you choose only the ones important to the story, I suppose.
Good advice, though, especially if you want to convey Action with a capital A.

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