Day: April 16, 2015

#AtoZChallenge: N is for Nice… and other boring adjectives you can do without

A-Z Challenge

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

N is for Nice… and other boring adjectives you can do without


In a past life I taught creative writing to children. I spent hours going on and on about adjectives, writing down example after example, and using the words to ‘improve’ boring sentences. Now I spend hours working with authors advising them to cut adjectives from their work to make it less boring.

Of course, in the case of the children the goal was to extend their vocabulary and to teach them about words. With my authors, the goal is to help them weed out all those things that drag their writing down.

Adjectives, as I have noted in other posts, should be used with caution. And broad adjectives shouldn’t be used at all (except in dialogue).

For example:

‘Her hair looked nice.’

This sentence tells us hardly anything at all. The word ‘nice’ is too broad; it’s incredibly vague. How nice does her hair look? We just don’t know. The same goes for fast, slow, happy, sad, beautiful, good, bad, big, little – you get the picture (but your readers won’t, if these are the words you use).

Sometimes we use these terms because they are almost automatic – we don’t even notice them. If you think you might be guilty of this, then try running a search for the offending term; you might be surprised how often one of these words crops up.

johnny nice

Any adjectives that you particularly hate? Do let me know by leaving a comment below. Thanks!