We are rerunning the most-viewed articles of 2019. This was one of the top five most-popular writing and editing articles of the year.
Adjectives are a bit like Oreos.
They’re alluring, they’re tasty—they feel good—and yet too many in quick succession can make you sick.
Ben Yagoda, who wrote “When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It,” quips, “Kicking things off with adjectives is a little like starting a kids’ birthday party with the broccoli course.”
That it is good to avoid them is one of the few points on which the sages of writing agree. Thus Voltaire: “The adjective is the enemy of the noun.” Thus William Zinsser: “Most adjectives are … unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun.”
Our patron saints of pedantry, Strunk and White, also cautioned against flowery prose: