A friend of mine was subjected to (her term) a corporate writing workshop by an acclaimed trainer, who offered a series of rapid fire "rules" for making your product better. My pal, already a solid writer, thought most of the rules were "yes, but" directives, meaning that they require more than blind following. Case in point:
Avoid the adjectives. Modifiers give only the illusion of meaning.
Not so fast.
How to use adjectives correctly
Who didn't pad a high school paper or two with unnecessary adjectives (and adverbs, too, probably) to make word count or make up for a lack of research? But if you create content without adjectives, it very likely would be "deadly dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and des-per-ate-ly DULL" (to borrow a line from Monty Python's Flying Circus). At the very least, you'd risk creating content that might not be detailed enough.
Sure, some content may not rely so heavily on apt descriptions. In these cases, a modicum of adjectival use is indicated. But other writing needs adjectives to work. It's like the Three Bears fairy tale. You want to find a level of adjective use that's just right for your audience and your purpose. Click these links for how to know your audience's needs and how to serve your content's purpose.
How adjectives make content better
This content about bridal gowns would be OK without adjectives, but it wouldn't evoke the emotion and feeling the retailer is hoping to evoke in the brides-to-be:
The sparkly Beautiful Bling Wedding Dress. Feel pretty as a princess in this gown featuring a bodice embellished with sea pearls, bugle beads and crystals that falls into a full ruffled skirt with a chapel-length train. Available in white only.
The convertible Banyan Gown. Perfect for the bride who appreciates a woman's prerogative to change her mind. Lace cap sleeves (optional) and ‘jewel’-encrusted bands highlight this elegant bodice that cascades into a pool of lace and tulle. Trumpet silhouette. Available in white, diamond white/pewter or light gold/champagne.
The layered Seaside Fantasy Gown. A beach beauty will exude elegance in this mermaid dress of pearl silk chiffon over blush silk charmeuse with Chantilly lace with hand-embroidered insets. Available in white sand and beach.
The 1920s-look Vintage Wedding Dress. Traditional brides will love the layers of flowing tulle, ruffles and appliqué that adorn this dropped-waist gown with sweep train. Available in ivory and white.
A better rule for modifiers
Instead of a sweeping directive like "Death to modifiers", try this:
Use adjectives judiciously to create specificity and detail for your audience and serve your purpose.
You’ll increase their power—and the power of the writing around them.
@ad3pinto tweeted about this post:
Yes! strict use of the hemingway rule does not = great copy RT @Word_Factory: #HowTo make your #content more helpful bit.ly/MS3g9X