By: Rebecca LuElla Miller
Adjectives receive a fair amount of discrimination from writing instructors. Sol Stein, author of Stein On Writing, has a great deal to say on the subject. In fact, he created a little
writing math formula for adjectives: one plus one
equals a half. Here’s his explanation:
Experience proves that when two adjectives are used, eliminating either strengthens the text. The more concrete adjective is the one to keep. Or the one that makes the image more visual (p. 200).
I’ll admit, when I first read Mr. Stein’s one-plus-one principle, I wasn’t sold, but the more experience I gained through critiquing manuscripts and then through editing, the more I understood the point. In writing, an author is creating an image for a reader to focus on. When introducing a character or place, he might think more is better, but in fact, the more describers, the less the reader focuses.
The best approach is to identify the “telling detail” and focus on that aspect. Again from Mr. Stein:
In addition to eliminating unnecessary words, I am focusing on using words for their precise meaning, which is the mark of a good writer (p. 199).
As he explains, beginning writers often suffer from a tendency to write using generalities.
Example: A man walked into the room and sat next to a woman.
Everything in that sentence is bland. Nothing stirs the reader to envision the scene.
. . .
Read the full article HERE!
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