Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Overwriting-Overuse of Adjectives and Verbs
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: March 21, 2013
It bears repeating that overusing adjectives and adverbs hints at a lazy writer. We use them only when necessary. Sometimes, we’ll find a simple adjective replaces an overly descriptive phrase, and this is fine.
But even better is to rewrite the phrase with strong noun and verb choices instead.
Don’t: She quickly forced the stubborn lock in place and wiped her moist brow exhaustedly.
Do: She forced the lock in place and wiped her brow.
Don’t: Mary liked the way his thin t-shirt barely covered his gloriously sculpted and tanned abs.
Do: Mary liked the way his t-shirt barely covered his abs.
Words which serve the sole function of holding up other words should only be used if you’re trying to eliminate too many “which” or “who” clauses.
When it came time for him to leave, he reflected on the evening, which wasn’t horrible in its entirety. The dinner, which was put on by a remarkably good cook, whose sole purpose in life must have been to cook a duck to its most tasty level of perfection, and the woman he loved seemed to be quite fond of him. However, the part in which he set the guest of honor’s hair on fire could probably have been omitted and then it might have been an evening that he’d remember with fondness.
Or, we could write:
The evening wasn’t completely awful. Apart from setting the guest of honor’s hair ablaze, he’d enjoyed himself.
The first is rich in adjectives, adverbs, and “which” and “who” clauses, making it impossible for the reader to digest on a single read. The only time we want the reader to read a passage twice is when she is basking in the brilliance of the prose and cannot resist that second read. The second sums it up. There we use an adverb, though well placed so that it’s necessary.
Writers should be wary if we find that we have to support one necessary word with words like “which,” “what,” “that,” “what,” and “who.” Eliminate them often and use the single word instead, even if it must be an adverb or an adjective.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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