Your A-to-Z guide of adjectives

It isn’t enough to pack your prose with just any old descriptors. The selection should be both precise and meaningful. Here’s a selection of adjectives that accomplish just that.


“Which word provides a better description of a puppy: ‘brown’ or ‘cute’?” — writing guru Ann Wylie

In a recent post I wrote about “dangerously ambiguous” adjectives and how the use of indirect and unclear descriptors can cause readers to ignore or misinterpret your message. The lesson here is to practice precision when you select your descriptors.

What follows is a list of some precise, meaningful adjectives. Consider using these for your next writing assignment.

• abrasive
• abrupt
• abundant
• adamant
• auburn
• bawdy
• bewildered
• bitter
• boorish
• cerulean
• coarse
• colossal
• combative
• crimson
• crooked
• dashing
• deafening
• determined
• diligent
• draconian
• elegant
• enchanting
• empty
• flaky
• flawless
• frantic
• frosty
• gabby
• guarded
• gutsy
• habitual
• hapless
• harmonious
• hollow
• hulking
• hypnotic
• ill-informed
• immense
• incandescent
• inflammatory
• inquisitive
• insolent
• judicious
• jumpy
• kindhearted
• languid
• lavish
• lilac
• ludicrous
• lyrical
• maddening
• makeshift
• mammoth
• measly
• melodic
• miscreant
• muddled
• murky
• narrow
• neighborly
• nimble
• noiseless
• noxious
• obedient
• onerous
• overconfident
• overwrought
• parched
• petite
• placid
• poised
• prickly
• puny
• purring
• quarrelsome
• quirky
• rabid
• raspy
• receptive
• repulsive
• resolute
• rigid
• rustic
• scarce
• scrawny
• shallow
• shaky
• somber • sordid
• sparse
• spiteful
• subdued
• succinct
• superficial
• swift
• tart
• tasteless
• tenacious
• thundering
• tiresome
• unbecoming
• unkempt
• unrefined
• unsightly
• unsuitable
• unwieldy
• vigorous
• volatile
• wasteful
• whimsical
• wide-eyed
• wiggly
• wry
• yielding
• youthful
• zealous
• zippy

Perhaps you don’t recognize some of these words; all the better. Grab a dictionary and make a new friend.

Do you have any other favorite adjectives to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. She writes about writing at www.impertinentremarks.com.

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