Less is more in the writing discipline

Make your verbs work
Verbs must do the hard work in a sentence

I am reading a book in which the author has swamped the pages with an oversupply of adjectives.

Of course, this is just my opinion, but I find the need to qualify every verb and every noun in the sentence an overreach and, worst of all, a punishment to the text. And the reader.

It halts flow and jars the pace, making it necessary to digest all the descriptions before getting into the story.

Perhaps it’s my newspaper background that makes me shun an excess of adjectives and adverbs. At the subbing desk, it is essential to get the story out in as few words as possible, with almost no adjectives but verbs that do a lot of the work. Reporters are encouraged to use expressive verbs that lend themselves to descriptive imagery.

For example, instead of saying, he walked across the road, you could say, he ambled across the road, which says something about the way he walks without needing to add an adjective.

A favourite among reporters is the word ‘whopping’ and it’s a word I delete without hesitation.

The sentence will read, “The school achieved a whopping 98% pass rate,” or “Simba Resources headline earnings per share increased by a whopping 11%.”

In the first example, the 98% can be interpreted as significant, without any help; in the second example, ‘whopping’ is only relative to share price increases of other companies in the same area and thus for those affected to decide on the significance of the 11%.

“Raymond Carvers a short story writer said sentence structure and punctuation were crucial, the proper word was essential, and what was omitted as important as what was inserted,” writersdigest.com says.

“Which brings us to adverbs and adjectives. Clearly, Carver would cast a suspicious eye on these forms of speech because many times they add little to what is already on the page. Frequently, they are not important, and in a short story, that means they have no business there.

“Many inexperienced writers throw in ‘pretty’ words to make their prose more dramatic and meaningful. But such cosmetic touching-up often turns out to be redundant or simply uninspiring.” www.writersdigest.com

My final thoughts:

  • Out with whopping and in with the facts.
  • Out with the adverb and in with the verb that works hard.
  • Out with the adjective and in with the action.

Your comments and feedback welcome.

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