Over-Using Adjectives and Adverbs in Your Writing - You don't need them!

A lot of writers think they can tell a good story if they describe the plot, the characters and/or the scene in minute detail,
which couldn't be further from the truth. Some lazy writers use them for word count.

It gets tedious, boring and slows a reader down. Guaranteed to be the best way to get your manuscript rejected and thrown into the garbage bin. They call it flowering.

An adjective is a word used to modify a noun. 

(e.g. The old grey wise man walked down the street.) 

Old, grey and wise are the adjectives, describing man. Are all three needed? If you are old you are presumed to be grey, if you are grey you are presumed to be old. If old and grey you're presumed wise. Only one is needed, and your best choice would be old because it embraces them all. 


The old man walked down the street.

An Adverb is a word used to modify a verb.

(e.g. The man pretty damn quick, promptly ran lickity-split, like lightning, full-tilt, quickly and rapidly, galloping at the speed of light, down the street.)

The word ran can stand on its own. All those adverbs aren't needed. Ran implies all of them.


The man ran down the street.

Now that we know what an adjective and an adverb are, here's how we can avoid using too many of them.  

  • Stringing Adjectives and Adverbs. Too many adjectives.  No matter how much you describe something, the reader will make his own presumptions. It doesn't matter how much you've described it. A reader might even get offended, you have give him more credit. We know what old men look like in general.
  • Leave blanks in your writing.  Keep them guessing.  Don't put all your marbles on the table.
  • If you said it once you probably said it twice.  People that use a lot of adjectives and adverbs tend to use them all the time.  Repeatedly. So... If you said it once you probably said it twice.  Check your work. 
  • Adjectives and adverbs do no strengthen subjects and objects as previously thought, they weaken them.  Like you're trying to tell the reader this noun or verb cannot stand on it own. Let the reader decide.
  • Speed up reading by taking them out. If you want to slow down your readers, by all means add adjectives and adverbs. I'm not saying get rid of them all.  When needed use them. 

In Summary:

For good writing: Cut back on adjectives and adverbs. In places where you've used two or three adjectives to describe something, cut back to just one, the most important. Better yet, if possible use none. If you do use adjectives and adverbs try using unusual ones and don't repeat them. The best way to fix your manuscript would be to use strong nouns and active verbs in the first place, eliminating a need to use those nasty, Adjectives and Adverbs.

In this case. Less is Better. Don't over-use Adjectives and Adverbs in your writing.

Write right!

Dog Brindle

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