Rule #5 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #5

5: Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!

I think this is pretty much self-explanatory.  I know I have done this, but usually to create a mood, and definitely in moderation.

For instance, a character in a deep, dark dungeon.  Miles took a slow, calculated step.  Yes, in each case you could delete one, but there is a mood set with the use of two, right.  BE CAREFUL THOUGH.  Use this extremely sparingly.  (Ha!  That’s two “ly” words in a row)

Take a look through your manuscript.  Where have you used double adjectives and had it work well?  Where did you smack yourself upside the head and delete one (or more) adjectives?



16 responses to “Rule #5 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I do this too often. I am a hacky, old fool.


  2. I usually have lots of these in my first draft, where I’m just telling and trying to get the words on the paper. Then I clean them up when I revise and SNT, SNT, SNT! It’s a damn hard thing to do sometimes though!

    • Yes it is! I tried to write a manuscript clean recently and it’s too easy to get slowed down worrying about the right word. More important to get the story out first.

  3. Oh, alliteration. Yeah, that’s had to go from some drafts! And I’m another proponent of reading aloud. It’s such a good way to find excess words and awkward phrases.

  4. I’m sure I am guilty of this. What I do is read it out loud and if it sounds stupid or forced, I delete one. 🙂

  5. This is where I start analyzing how the adjectives are being used. If I say “old, arthritic man,” the one is an attempt to amplify the same trait. I would tend to eliminate “old” because it’s too generic. If I am using adjectives that “round” the character, let’s say “arthritic, belligerent” man, I’d tend to keep both because they describe two aspects of his character.

  6. This is something I will definitely have to look for when proofreading from now on. Thanks for the advice!

  7. I’m conscious of adjectives and generally don’t like a ready peppered with lots of them. Adverbs are what I must watch out for, and alliteration.