My internet friend Floyd Hyatt is here once more with some excellent advice on the use of adverbs and adjectives. It isn’t what one usually hears!
Sometimes, a bit of general writing advice can get picked up as a fad, and suddenly, no one wants to tag their dialog anymore, or writers begin to mechanically strip the color “Red” out of their stories, or use only two syllable words. This ain’t the way to go, or the original intent of the advice. Most of this sort of ad vision, tries to point out potential over usage problems. There are no verboten words chronicled in the English dictionary far as I know, so long as your grammar is correct, of course.
Adjectives and adverbs are a case in point. They bring color and shading and personality to your writing. Take any story you like, and strip them out. Then try reading it, (if you can stomach it anymore). You have oatmeal. You have a textbook. Prose as dry as a Sahara sirocco. You no longer have a story or novel. You have turned color and action into black and white words on a page. Shame on you.
If used inappropriately, or just because (like a mountain) they are there, that’s probably not a good thing, and you rightfully should consider what they have added to each passage, If the answer is, nothing really, they should likely go. Just bear in mind you can take too much sugar out of a recipe. These gems express on the page, the subtlety of action, your style, and tell the reader who the writer is. If you feel compelled to peel them out, put the work up for a few days, then go back and read that revision. If it reads like a physics text, put some back. Heck, depending on your style, put them all back, if they are warranted.
Consider that several authors criticized for writing purple prose, have also sold stacks of their work. Remember that one failing of the grammar engine in your word processor, is that it is insensate, and doesn’t actually read anything. It’s giving out advice about something it has not read, could never read, even if it wanted to. It just applies algorithms to compare word combinations against lists and rule bases, mostly germane to business communications. It’s advice to help keep your feet under you when on a ship’s deck, not to encourage you to stay in your cabin, and neglect your style development.
Certainly a good thing to mechanically do, in terms of adverb, adjective use, is to consider looking for repetitious use. Try not to employ the same ones in adjoining sentences without good reason. Such duplications tend to set up irritating reading rhythms, and offer up an annoying second grade primer experience for the reader. School primers use the device to teach word use through repetition, seldom the point of a modern novel or story.
Mr. Hyatt’s groups:
New! For serious Writers Sun Tea Writers Circle - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sun_Tea_Writers_Circle Established - for casual writers, since 2007 Plotters of Dreams - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Plotters_of_Dreams
So now you absolutely, positively know.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What he said: Take a piece of writing by someone else and strip out all the descriptive words. Hemingway doesn’t count.