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Watch Out for Superfluous Adjectives

A little goes a long way when it comes to adjectives. And you can have too much of a good thing sometimes (even—dare I say it? —chocolate).

While adjectives help your readers get a clearer picture of the person or thing you want them to see, not every adjective is essential. Eliminating one may improve a sentence.

Here’s an example:

  • The expedition climbed the high mountain.

No need for that adjective in front of mountain; we know mountains are high.

  • Three-year-old Davis cheered for the brave superhero.

Bravery is one of the characteristics that makes a superhero a superhero. Strong nouns don’t need the assistance of an adjective. Continue Reading…

The March of the Adjectives

Adjectives add color to writing. In case you forgot what an adjective is, they are those words that modify or describe a noun (thing). Because they describe nouns, it’s not unusual to use more than one before a noun. But I bet you didn’t you know there is an “acceptable” way to order these adjectives.

 Oftentimes a certain order sounds better, but we’re hard-pressed to explain why. I sometimes stop editing when I come across a line like “he wore a black long coat.” It just feels wrong to put black before long. Our language has developed such that certain adjectives just sound better in a certain order. It has nothing to do with a hierarchy of importance, and no, you don’t organize alphabetically. It’s likely that these general rules are somewhat ingrained in us so that our ear is accustomed to putting adjectives in a certain order without knowing the reason. Continue Reading…

Turning Verbs into Nouns May Be Bad for Your Writing

In the previous post on nominalizations, I talked about how nominalizations are formed and briefly touched on a general approach to remedying them. In this post, I’ll explain ways to identify and correct specific nominalizations, as well as point out some legitimate uses of nominalization.

Nominalization is a fancy word that means taking a part of speech such as a verb, adjective, or adverb and turning it into a noun—primarily at the head of a sentence. Doing this can lead to some weak sentence structure.

Watch out for nominalizations that follow a verb:

  • The auditors conducted an investigation into the embezzlement
  • Better: The auditors investigated the embezzlement

Continue Reading…