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Adjectives and Adverbs: The Death of the English Language

I enjoy when people tell me they like my writing. It’s soothing. It helps silence the voice in my head, at least for a while. You know the voice. It’s the one that tells you, you aren’t good enough. You suck. You’ll never make it as a writer. Hell, you don’t even have anything to say. Don’t bother trying, just quit now. Strangely enough, the voice sounds an awful lot like my Dad.

What do I have to say? It seems like nothing. I’ll tell you this though: I may have nothing to say, but I’m going to say it without adjectives and adverbs.

I hate adjectives. I hate adverbs. They are fluff words. They detract from the story. They lessen the writing. They are insulting as a reader. They say you don’t have confidence as a writer. Kill them. Kill the adjectives. Kill the adverbs.

Show us that little Timmy is tired, don’t tell me. God damn it man!

Correct:

Little Timmy plopped down on the sofa. He didn’t have the energy to take off his coat.

Incorrect:

Little Timmy yawned tiredly from the days events.

Not-So-Bad:

Little Timmy yawned.

Don’t hurt Little Timmy’s feelings. He knows where you sleep. Don’t be lazy. Don’t write crap. Adjectives and adverbs are crap. Sure, they have a place in the English language, a closet beneath the stairs. That’s where they should stay unless of course, you know what you’re doing. But you don’t, so don’t act like you do! Kill them! Kill them all, I say!

Okay, okay. I admit. Adverbs do have their place, but often you’ll find that you can improve your writing by doing away with them.

Repetitive adverbs are ones that you can easily cut from your writing.

Little Timmy smiled happily.

Are you kidding? This is horrid! Little Timmy is ashamed. Little Timmy is smiling, of course he’s happy. Get that redundant adverb off the mother effing page. Only an unusual smile needs the highlighting of an adverb–a crafty smile or a resigned smile may merit a descriptor.

Now for a brief list of very, very useless adverbs: the ones often used carelessly as intensifiers. You really should cut these out: “extremely,” “definitely,” “truly,” “very,” and “really.” You can totally use them in dialogue though, especially if your characters are surfers. Otherwise, avoid them mightily.

Don’t underestimate the reader. Let the reader’s imagination go to work. They’re smart, your readers. They have vivid imaginations. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t go in using words adjectives like (big, small, wide, heavy, pretty, etc.). These are weak words that add nothing good to your writing, if anything they are bringing it down.

Sentences that are over-reliant on adverbs and adjectives don’t just get longer; they get heavier.

Example:

After a long day at work, I dragged myself upstairs to my wooden, four-post bed and plush, overstuffed pillows where I sleepily rested my melancholy head, that is until my wife came and got me for evening dinner.

Contrast that with:

After a long day at work, I dragged myself up to my room to rest my head, that is until my wife came and got me for dinner.

The first sentence tries to leave nothing to the readers imagination. The reader isn’t getting the chance to create the scene. You’re pushing your reader into a corner, forcing them to see things as you see them. This should be a crime.

The second sentence leaves more to the imagination. The scene in my head will weave itself differently than the scene in your head and yet the main points of the story still hold true. This is writing. This is how it should be done.

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