Quick Writing Tips (#8 – Watch Your Adjectives)

Improve Writing through proper adjective use

Thanks for joining us today for Tips to Improve Writing (#8 – Watch your Adjectives). You may be wondering where I’m going with this. Aren’t adjectives always good? Ha! I’ll show you that improper use will make you want to gouge your eyes out.

When NOT to use an adjective

How do I know? I once beta read a chapter with more adjectives than verbs or nouns combined. So? You might think the writer was very good at describing things. Nuh-uh. I soon became lost, not knowing why the story even mattered through the overabundance of prolific words. It read something like this:

Stygian, aphotic, and tenebrous clouds hung in a tempestuous, squally, turbulent sky.

Too many adjectives writer.

Now imagine ten pages written in a comparable fashion with hardly any action taking place.


After reading a whole chapter like that, I was honestly afraid to use adjectives in my own writing for months, maybe even a year.

Why doesn’t the example work well? For starters, there are too many adjectives describing the same thing. Similarly, there are too many adjectives that the average reader might not know.

With these points in mind, lets create a better sentence.

WHEN to use an adjective

When to use adjectives

We want the reader to know the sky is stormy. Let’s use ONE adjective per item we want to describe. And maybe we want our readers to learn some new words, but still understand what we’re saying. So we could say something like this:

Aphotic clouds percolated in the tempestuous sky.

Better example

Not only does the point come across clearer in the better example, but we also threw in a stronger verb. The reader gets a quick visual that a storm is brewing so the story can move on. They are no longer bogged down with excessive descriptions.

Tightening every sentence by narrowing in on the strongest adjectives will improve your writing. Occasionally you can throw in more than one if it brings greater clarity. If it’s important to note that those clouds are displaying a sunset at the same time, you could throw another adjective in, though aphotic would no longer technically work. But that’s okay.

Decide what you want your readers to know, then wow them in as few words as possible. You’ll have them flipping through pages and begging for more.

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