#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

Borat-VeryNice

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!

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20 comments

  1. I tell my EFL learners that ‘nice’ is a very convenient word because it can be used in any situation: food, clothes, people, places… But for a writer, I agree, it’s a vague word to be avoided. I’m so lucky you proofread my novel:) Every writer needs someone (or more even) to read through every word and ask them if it serves a purpose. We lack perspective for our own work (at least I do).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I have been guilty of using the boring adjectives. I also repeated the same ones over and over again. I had a major problem with ‘however’ (not an adjective, I know). I still use it a lot and while editing, I simply weed it out or replace it.
    *Shantala @ ShanayaTales*

    Liked by 1 person

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