“Ostentatious intellectual types raised their fragile glasses merrily in a raucous celebration of the prevalent overuse of adjectives and adverbs in everyday sentences everywhere and then sadly went ballistic when they were unceremoniously outed as attempting to sound much more intelligent than they truly were.”
It’s Saturday so I’m ranting about something. This time, it is adjectives and adverbs. Yes you read that right, I am ranting about adjectives and adverbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I’m just ranting about the abuse of adjectives and adverbs. Just because you love flowery prose as a writer doesn’t mean you need to have a garden growing around your subject and verb.
There is nothing wrong with using an adjective or adverb or two to describe something in your sentences or to add emphasis to things. I’m just tired of reading sentences that are so heavily laden with adjectives that I feel like they need little support beams underneath to hold them up.
The key with using adjectives and adverbs is two part:
- The first part is to never use unusual or out of common use adjectives/adverbs that you had to search out just to be able to find them and their meaning. If used as a means of illustrating a character’s old language usage or something similar then it’s o.k. In most instances, using out of date words serves only to show that you are trying too hard.
- The second part is to use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Even flowery prose doesn’t have so many adjectives and adverbs as to trip itself up. Describing every noun or verb is not necessary. Give your reader some credit. If your writing is good and the supporting sentences are well written, your reader will probably know what is going on without you having to say it.
Let me illustrate this with the first sentence. If I had said “Ostentatious intellectual types raised their fragile glasses merrily in a raucous celebration.” The word fragile is just not needed. Glasses are often fragile. Most readers know this without being told. Merrily is not needed due to the following phrase “raucous celebration.” A raucous celebration implies that the characters were merry. Most of the adjectives in the sentence are not needed. The sentence would mean the same if it were simply phrased,
“Ostentatious intellectual types raised their glasses in celebration.”
Raucous could be added to show that the celebration was wild but the use of ostentatious and intellectual have already filled the sentence with enough adjectives. If one or both of these adjectives were removed then adding raucous might be more acceptable.
And this concludes my little rant about adjectives and adverbs. I hope, for all you writers out there, that it was entirely unnecessary. Most people can tell when they have used too many descriptive terms. This was just for those few who lack such ability.