Editing: Adjectives

Every writer has his/her crutches. Don’t believe me? Go back and read some of your earliest writing. (You just cringed at the thought, didn’t you?)


Since I’m in the middle of painful edits, I’m going to be totally transparent about my biggest crutch/Achilles heel/bane of my existence.


-words that modify nouns & pronouns; a descriptive word-

Why is this a problem? Because adjectives can WEAKEN your writing. Use too many and they work against each other to take away from the imagery you’re creating and pull your reader from the story. A big no-no.

ex. The ugly, long, dirty, dingy, yellow curtains kept the cheerful, blinding, hot sun out of the gloomy, chilly, dusty room.

Say it out loud. It’s an awkward mouthful that overwhelms rather than painting a clear image. Here is a much better example.

ex. The dirty, yellow curtains kept the sun out of the cold room.

The adjective “dirty” tells us the curtains are dingy and ugly, it also tells us the room is dusty. The fact that there are curtains on the window shows us that the room is probably gloomy. The sun doesn’t need descriptors to tell us that its hot, blinding, or cheerful. These are things we infer just from knowing the sun is shining behind the curtains. All those extra adjectives simply cluttered our sentence.

I’ve learned that adjectives are like a king-sized Hershey bar sitting on my counter, luring me closer, begging me to eat all of it at once. I know that if I do, I’ll probably gain 5 poiunds as well as really irritate my 9-year-old son for whom I bought the treat. Simply put, it’s a really bad idea. Using too many adjectives leads to lazy writing, which makes your manuscript “heavy” in the metaphorical sense. *sigh* My MS and I are going on a diet.

Editing funny comic

I’m walking away from that candy bar and getting back to my editing. There’s always more adjectives to delete. In the mean time, leave a comment sharing your worst crutch. I’d love to know I’m not the only one out there who’s willing to expose my imperfections!

2015-2016 Author photo

Sabrina A. Fish is the author of three Shine novellas, Lost Haven, Road to Nowhere and The Gilded Cage. Owner of a thriving Oklahoma trophy company, she collects interesting names to use in her writing from lists of award recipients. She’s been married to a wonderful man for 10 years and has been mommy to a beautiful little boy for 9 of those. You can learn more about Sabrina at www.SabrinaAFish.com or find her on Twitter @SabrinaAFish, and Instagram @SabrinaAFish, on Goodreads, and Facebook /AuthorSabrinaAFish


2 thoughts on “Editing: Adjectives

  1. My crutch … well, I just had my first novel professionally edited, and what the editor found the most was that I had spots where I slipped into telling instead of showing. Those are the spots where I got lazy and just wanted to get to the next scene. I had to rewrite those areas with more description and emotion … and yes, adjectives. Heh. I actually enjoy editing better than writing. Coming up with detailed scenes for that blank page unnerves me. 😛

    Thanks for sharing your crutch.

    1. You LIKE editing better than writing?! I can’t imagine such a concept!!! 😉 Yeah, I also have moments where I do that. It is beyond irritating. Thanks for sharing your crutch.

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