Writing Tip — Death to all Adjective and Adverbs!

words-1034410_1280Or at least some serious injury. This post at Almost an Author talks about how the current writing style tries to eliminate most adjectives and adverbs. After I got Miss Hall’s response to my question, I realized that the new style poses both advantages and a unique danger to writers, especially to beginning ones.


The current style is more descriptives. When a strong verb can do the work of a verb and an adverb, then eliminating the adverb makes sense. The sentence is both more descriptive and shorter.

He walked home slowly.

He trudged home.

And some words have been so overused that they don’t hold any meaning any more. “Really” and “suddenly” can’t be used, except in dialogue.


But in the case of the example Miss Hall provides, the description grows from 23 words with adjectives and adverbs to 39 without them. The passage is more descriptive, and longer is not necessarily worse. But I think writers can very easily develop the written equivalent of long-windedness if we don’t exercise caution when replacing adjectives and adverbs.

So what’s a writer do do? Here is my advice.

First draft

Use as many adjectives and adverbs as you want if they express most clearly what you are describing. If the lettuce is green, fragile, ruffled, and crispy, put it all down. In a first draft, getting the words down is more important than what words you put down.


As you edit your first draft, determine which adjectives and adverbs you should replaces and how succinctly you can replace them. If your replacement description is longer than the adjectives or adverbs, make sure it doesn’t effect your pacing.

Read recently published books and see when and how they use adjectives and adverbs. The current style allows more adjectives than adverbs. I find, especially when describing the physical characteristics of a character, there is just no other good way to go about it except by using adjectives.

My main character describes his eyes as “boring” and “blue”. I don’t know how else to describe the color and by adding “boring”, the reader learns a little about how my main character sees himself.

If you would like to learn about the basics of how to use adjectives and adverbs, these two articles will show you.

memo-29039_1280Personal Note

If you read the comments below Miss Hall’s article, you will find one that disagrees strongly with the new style. I don’t think it’s better or worse. It’s just what publishers believe people will read. Three thousand years ago, if you wanted to tell a long story, you wrote an epic poem. Now you write a triple-decker novel. One’s not better than the other. Both want to meet the needs of the reading public of that time.

Who knows? If fifty years, writers may be passing death sentences on strong verbs.


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