The Editor’s Corner – Adjective Abuse

Last week I threw you a red herring to pull you off track for copy editing. But now that’s over, this week we’re back to talking about adjective use, or rather, adjective abuse.

Adjectives are fine, but too many of them can wind up being boring and repetitive. Yes, they’re useful in telling a person whether or not their soup is hot, or if it’s cold outside. But too many of them signal to an editor or publisher that the writing is weak, and that there’s more “tell” than “show.”

As you already know, you want way more show than tell. Some tell is fine, but too much makes the reader disengage.

When you’re a writer, you want engaging reading that’s creative, not a play-by-play report.

This goes hand-in-hand with the overuse of adverbs, remember.

But don’t despair! There is an easy fix for it that you can do right now.

Instead of:
Lonnie was cold.

Try:
Lonnie stepped outside and pulled her jacket around her. She shivered, mindful of the patches of ice on the pavement.

With the first one, you get it. Lonnie’s cold. In the second one, you’re walking with her, outside, pulling your jacket around you and trying to avoid the ice patches on the ground.

That’s all there is to it.

For practice, go back over one of your old drafts and find where you’re using adjectives. Rewrite the passage to show the reader what you were trying to say with your adjective.

Happy writing!


If you’d like to read some snazzy adjectives used sparingly (ooh there go those adverbs again), pick up my works. It’s great for horror and weird fiction fans. 

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