Archive | September 2013

Descriptive Words

Adverbs and adjectives are part of our English language, so why not have tons of them in writing? This is something I’m still struggling with. I could never understand why  I should limit their use, but I’m learning.

First of all, as a writer, you always want to find the best way to say what you mean, without rambling. (Unless you have a character who rambles as part of their personality.)

I tend to ramble, so that’s something I’m learning to overcome. Have you ever written a sentence that just rubbed you wrong? You knew that there was something wrong with it, but you couldn’t quite put a finger on it? My best suggestion is, highlight it, then walk away from it. Days later, revisit it. You may be surprised at how the right fix comes to you. Reading it aloud helps, too.

So, descriptive words, whether adjective or adverb are important, but try to find a better noun or verb to say what you mean. One of my fellow writers pointed out that one thing that has always bothered her when she’s editing is the phrase, “whispered softly.” Granted, sometimes whispers are loud, like a stage whisper, but most whispers are soft. There is no need for the adverb here.

“I love you,” Jake whispered.  What more needs to be said?

Or how about this example: The muscles on his arms were really big.

Yes, it paints a picture of a man with big muscles, but the sentence is dry. What’s another word for ‘really big?’ How about enormous, or gigantic, or gargantuan? You could change the sentence to: The muscles on his arms were enormous.  Still dry. So, paint a bigger picture.  His taut shirt sleeves encased his enormous muscles.  Okay…maybe that’s a little overboard, but you get the picture!

Back to the adverb. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with sentences in order to find ways to avoid adverbs. However, I must confess that sometimes I still use them.

I struggled with a sentence that I loved in one of my books, back before I learned that adverbs should be limited. So, I asked my fellow writers how I could rewrite the sentence: She walked stealthily behind him. I thought the sentence said all that needed to be said. And I loved the word ‘stealthily.’ But, being that I was trying to rid the ‘ly’ words, I tried to envision how she walked, and what made it stealthy. It ended up being: With the stealth of a tiger, she remained some distance behind him.

So, what do you think? Better?

Always remind yourself that you are an artist with a paintbrush creating a masterpiece. Each word you type is a brush stroke adding color and form to your artwork. Paint with vivid colors.

I would love your input! Because I’m constantly (yes an ‘ly’ word) learning new things, I’d appreciate having you share what you’ve learned about adverbs and adjectives. But whatever you do…keep writing.



The muscles on his arms were really big.

The muscles on his arms were really big.