Excessive adjectives – a short rant

What i like about literature (and poetry) is that a good piece uses words to describe a scene without unnecessary adverbs or adjectives. Once you start shoving them in, it’s probably indicative of either lazy writing or having to plug the story with words to get up the word count-  and I’m going to get annoyed at the book pretty fast.

I’m not saying descriptions or world building are not required, but they need to be well written, and not just sticking an adjective or two before a noun.

Take these examples:

In the book  “Housekeeping” – on page one there is a sentence that describes the situation and context of the narrator’s grandfather’s house.

“He had grown up in the Middle west, in a house dug out of the ground, with windows just at earth level and just at eye level, so that from without, the house was a mere mound, no more a human stronghold than a grave, and from within , the perfect horizontality of the world in that place foreshortened the view so severely that the horizon seemed to circumscribe the sod house and nothing more.”

There is no excessive adjectives here.  All the words are chosen and needed. It’s well considered. It evokes not only the place but the effect of the place on the mind of the person in that place.

Compare this sentences from the opening of “Time of the Twins’ – a fantasy novel from the 80s (books were written a few years apart).

”Walking with gentle, measured tread across the rich rug of lamb’s wool that lay on the marble floor, Bertrem paused before the great polished wooden desk. For long moments he said nothing, absorbed in watching the hand of the historian guide the quill across the parchment in firm, even, strokes”.


Isn’t this better?

”Walking with even tread across the lamb’s wool rug, Bertrem paused before the desk. For a moment he said nothing, absorbed in watching the hand of the historian guide the quill across the parchment.”

It says the same thing, only succinctly. You can still picture the room – a lamb wool rug indicates richness. You know who is in it and what they are doing.  The historian presumably writes nicely, otherwise why be a historian – do you need to put that in? No, you do not. You just don’t have to add in all those details in that way. If the marble floor is an important detail, maybe to suggest luxury –  perhaps mention the discomfort of Bertrem’s feet on the coldness of it.

I no longer can read books with double-barrel adjectives peppering the text.

Excessive adjectives – a short rant

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