The Problem with Unnecessary Adjectives

When I first heard during a lecture that we should not use a lot of adjectives (avoid the adjectival froth), it sounded strange. I have always liked vivid descriptions, especially those in “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. Martin paints vivid descriptions of castles, landscapes, mountains and people in his books. The descriptions are a crucial part of the story because they enable the writer to imagine fictitious lands and people. I thought there must be something I do not understand properly, and sure enough after some reading I found the real meaning of those words.
Actually the purpose of adjectives is to describe nouns and pronouns. They are not meant to lengthen a sentence. They should be used only when required. The aimless and meaningless use of adjectives should be, at all costs, avoided. For example, if one considers the sentence “The dumb fool jumped from the roof”, it is obvious that the use of dumb is not only unnecessary but without any purpose. A fool is never expected to be a smart fellow; therefore “dumb” should not be used in this sentence.
Adjectives are tools that should be used smartly. They should be used when a noun or pronoun needs to be described as in “The dark street was crowded with rats”, where street is being described by the word “dark”. Since not all streets are dark therefore it makes sense to use the word in order to describe it.

The dark, dreary house had an empty, suspicious feel to it, the thick air stale and sour with undefined, scary kitchen odors …
Here if one is using dark then dreary should be deleted. Similarly, suspicious, sour and stale can easily be deleted and the sentence will still convey the same sense as before.

I hope this helps you write better.


Note: The last example was read on Writers digest


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