Expendable Adjectives

(One Day Late for) June 23, 2014  Prompt #52


For most of this week, we’ll be looking at revisions.  So dig up some old writing and get ready to rethink, revise, and re-do.

Today we’ll focus on adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns. Adverbs modify verbs. They supply your readers with information about the noun or verb. Sounds good, right? And yet…


  1. Choose an essay, story, or poem that you’ve written.
  2. With a colored pen, circle all the adjectives and adverbs in the piece.
  3. Can you remove any of these adjectives and adverbs by beefing up the nouns they modify?  For instance, instead of writing tall building, you could write tower or skyscraper. Instead of writing she ran quickly, you might write she sprinted or she raced.

Further Writing

  • Read your piece aloud.  Do any adjectives and adverbs jar its rhythm? Consider cutting them. Read it again. Does the work feel tighter? More agile?
  • Instead of cutting back, double or triple up on every adjective. The slim, skinny, thin man took out his leather, hide, animal skin wallet. Try this for a page or two. Can you create a short piece that uses this technique?

Variation for Writing Groups

  1. On a fresh piece of paper, write down all the adjectives and adverbs from a short story, a poem, or an essay. (Or from the first two pages of any work.) Read them aloud. What tone or emotion do you pick up from them? What do others in your group think?
  2. Trade a short piece of your writing–with all its adjectives and adverbs circled–with a writing partner. Write new, stronger nouns for your writing partner then swap back. Do any of nouns they provided appeal to you?

Even More

Want to brush up on your parts of speech? Try this website.



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