spice up the writing

Yesterday I talked about the basic grammar of sentences and what you need to know. That’s all fine and good but in all honestly, basic nouns and verbs only go so far. Even when you add in adjectives and adverbs, you sound wonderful.

One of the things that writers need to avoid is excessively littering your writing with adjective and adverbs. They do serve a place–don’t get me wrong–but using two or three of them per sentence will not result in good writing.

Take for this sentences for example:

The girl ran across the road and entered the library.

I could go on and on how we could modify this sentence to make it sound very good with plenty of description  but I won’t. (If you are interested, it can be found in The Art of Fiction somewhere.)

If I were to add perhaps two adjectives/adverbs, it’d sound okay.

The girl quickly ran across the road and entered the grand library.

However, if I litter the sentence with adjectives and adverbs, it doesn’t sound all that good.

The stocky, red-head girl quickly and directly ran across the dusty, pebble road and cautiously entered the tall, grand library.

See what I mean?

So if you can’t add in any number of adjectives and adverbs to get your point, what is one to do? This is where we spice up the writing.

I shall introduce something to you that I call strong words. I don’t know what an English teacher would call them but this is what I call them.

Strong words are words that denote a vivid picture. They are generally adjectives (combining several adjectives into one word) or verbs, although they can occasionally be nouns or adverbs. The goal of these is to create a better picture than flat words.

Here is the sentence when I insert strong words:

The girl darted across the road and slipped into the library.

See? That gives a much better picture. And now, I can still add in a few adjectives.

The ragged girl darted across the road and slipped into the elegant  library.

And that still works, it still sound relatively good, and it gives a picture. Pictures, in writing, are good.

Now, something that you must understand about this is that almost every single word has a sliding scale to it. If I say I am sad, then I’m kinda down, kinda so-so, but i’ll be fine tomorrow. If I say I’m despondent, that gives a much clearer picture.

Strong words are always better than adjectives or adverbs when writing. If you need help, try creating a sliding scale. Take your word–say, happy–and insert all the possible words to describe happy from the least happy to the most happy. Then, you should be able to figure out which one fits the best.

Just a note too. Question of the Week due by Saturday night. That’s two days left.

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About Abigail

I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

3 responses to “spice up the writing”

  1. Trent Aitken-Smith says :

    Excellent post. A lot of writers (myself included) use to many words to set a scene and thereby create a confusing sentence, which is way too long, when fewer words could have provided the same result. Just like the sentence I have just written! I should have stuck with “excellent post”.

  2. Diana Stevan says :

    Like this post as it reminds me what I learned from the way Hemingway wrote. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Saddy Butt says :

    very interesting and easy to understand…

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