Keep It Simple-Use Nouns and Verbs!

untitledLess is more. Five adjectives in one sentence is better than six; four adjectives are better than five; three are better than four; two are better than three…By using fewer words to obtain the effect you desire, you will force yourself to use more accurate and more powerful words-Dean Koontz, ‘How To Write Best Selling Fiction’

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place-Strunk and White, ‘The Elements Of Style’

These are two great sources with amazing advice. They are not alone in their philosophy. I have read this time and time again and I understand completely were they are coming from. I am a self designated skipper. Some of you know exactly what I mean. I couldn’t care less the lady has diamond encrusted buttons running down the back of her evening gown. Unless it winds up in a murder scene, don’t go there.

I love Jerry Jenkins. He has written numerous blogs on the importance of simplicity and avoiding the urge to prettify your prose. He calls it written-ese. It’s a special language we use when we forget to Just Say It.

He provided the following example from a beginner’s work he was editing.

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Whoa! How many times did you have to read that?

None of these authors disparage adjectives and adverbs. They see them as indispensable parts of speech. The problem is when, why, and how many times we use them. Rich ornate prose is hard to digest.

Anything that interferes with communication-excessive adjectives and adverbs, overly complicated phrasing, too elaborate metaphors and similes presented soley for the fact that the writer wants to show off his/her skills, should be omitted.

The best way to communicate with your reader, is to keep your writing simple and direct.

-Jan R

Keep It Simple-Use Nouns and Verbs!

9 thoughts on “Keep It Simple-Use Nouns and Verbs!

  1. I agree, though it does depend somewhat on genre. A literary work driven more by character and setting will have a higher percentage of adjectives and adverbs than a thriller driven mostly by a fast-paced plot will. And it could vary by scene, too. There are places where it’s nice to slow down and linger on the language a bit. The trick is to strike the right balance, and that will vary from author to author and is a big factor of what we refer to as voice. I’m not sure that’s something that can be effectively learned from an instruction manual. I think it mostly has to be honed through practice and openness to critique.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That is true, but it can be overdone in historical fiction, too, and often is. The writer has to convey to the reader that she’s done the research and is trustworthy, but has to be careful to draw a distinction between the mountain of research that she’s really excited about, and the mountain peak that will interest, not bore, the reader.

        Liked by 1 person

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