Writing Tips & Advice
The inclination to overuse adverbs and adjectives, which is closely related to the 'show, don’t tell' concept, is
easy to do, but should be avoided. Using nouns and verbs allows the reader to experience the story through the
character’s actions, dialogue, facial expressions, etc., rather than telling the reader what to believe by using
adjectives and adverbs.
A short sentence comprised of a few right words will have greater impact than a long sentence that includes
extraneous ones. With respect to adjectives, use them only when the noun by itself isn’t enough. If the
adjective doesn’t really add any value to the sentence, it will just clutter up the writing, and readers will skip over
it. If readers find themselves skipping over too much text, they will question why they are reading the book.
I still occasionally use adverbs and adjectives in my sentences, but I try not to overuse them. Here are some
tips I learned along the way.
Start With the Common Ones
I found a list of common adjectives and adverbs on the Internet and exported them to an Excel spreadsheet
(click here). Then I searched my manuscript for each word on the list. When I came upon one, I read the text
surrounding it and determined whether it should be replaced with more effective words or left alone.
Before: The baby was adorable.
After: The baby’s wide innocent eyes, toothless grin and chubby cheeks were enough to make anyone
"Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.”
--From The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
Watch the "ly" Words
Another step I found helpful was to search my manuscript for “ly” words. In almost every case, I was able to replace them with better
Before: She walked slowly.
After: She took her time walking to the window.
Avoid Redundant Words
- Free gift -- If it’s a gift, it’s free.
- Serious danger -- All danger is serious.
- Cold snow -- There is no such thing as warm snow.
- The bull bellowed loudly -- How else would a bull bellow?
Find the Right Word
Avoid using adjectives and adverbs when you can’t think of the right word.
- Use boulder instead of huge rock.
- Use stormed instead of walked angrily.
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