A Short Guide to Adjectives

adjective – a word naming an attribute of a noun, such as sweet, red or technical.

 

No story is complete without adjectives to make it stand out. Without them we wouldn’t know what our favourite characters look like or what it’s like to be stood in a fantasy world. For this reason they’re my favourite type of word, so here’s a few pointers on how to use them well.

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The Power of Three

There’s a lot of power in threes, which is why we use them so often. The three little pigs, three musketeers, you get the idea. This works for adjectives just as well as it does for everything else. Things tend to sound better when there are three words together, especially when describing something. Take a look at the following sentences.

Olivia had short, dark, curly hair.

Olivia had short, dark hair.

Which sounds better? Although the first gives more information, the second reads much better. If you think it’s absolutely essential for that third adjective to be there, give it to the readers in another way.

Olivia had short, dark hair that fell in soft curls around her face.

This sounds much better and still has all the information in it. You don’t have to stick religiously to these rules though. If you think three adjectives before the noun sounds best in a particular sentence that go ahead and use it. Generally though, stick to using just one or two.

Use All Five Senses

We use all five of our senses when describing and remembering things in our day to day lives, so why wouldn’t we use them in stories too? The sense we use most often is sight, so it makes sense to use this the most in our work, but remembering to include the others will really improve the quality of your writing. Tell your readers what a room smells like, how food feels in a character’s mouth, what sounds are coming from the tent in the woods. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here are the five senses you can use in your writing:

Taste

Touch

Smell

Sight

Sound

Using all of these rather than just one or two of them will help plant your reader firmly with your antagonist in the world that you have created.

Be Bold

There are so many adjectives out there to choose from, so why is it that everyone uses the same ones? How many times have you read that something is big in a book, or that skin feels like leather? Words like big are used so much that they don’t have a massive effect on us. If you really want to express that something is big then use a different word that’s full of meaning and paints a picture in your readers heads. I mean, if a child is describing an elephant, to them it’s not big, it’s humongous. Using synonyms can really boost your writing and strengthen the world you’ve created.

Adjectives are the most important part of your writing, and if you follow these three tips your writing will really stand out and shine. And if you’re ever unsure about an adjective or want to find a new and interesting one to use, grab a thesaurus and have a look.

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