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How to Write Descriptions Without Relying on Adjectives and Adverbs

Updated on June 4, 2014

My Thanks to Lea Before I Begin

If you have no desire to improve as a writer, then read no further.

I’m serious!

We are talking serious writing tips for serious writers, so if you aren’t interested, then go do whatever it is you do other than improving at your craft.

If you are still here then let’s begin this discussion with a quote.

From Mark Twain:

“I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. ... There are subtleties which I cannot master at all,--the confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me,--and this adverb plague is one of them. ... Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won't.”
- "Reply to a Boston Girl," Atlantic Monthly, June 1880

And another:

I think my mistakes were kind of common - leaning on cliches and adjectives in the place of clear, vivid writing. But at least I knew how to spell, which seems to be a rarity these days.

Dick Schaap


Listen, I have nothing against adverbs and adjectives. I use them myself. All writers do…they are, after all, parts of language, and where would we writers be without language?

But I do have a problem with writers who rely too heavily on adverbs and adjectives. I think adverbs and adjectives can become crutches, and I also think they can be substitutes for quality writing. Quality writing takes time and effort. To write “she was a beautiful woman” requires very little in the way of talent. However, to describe that beauty in such a way so the readers can actually picture that woman in their minds….well….that takes some serious ability.

Think about that for a second. If you say she was beautiful, my mind instantly projects a picture of a beautiful woman that may be quite different from the author’s intention. There are blond beautiful women, and brunettes; there are short beautiful women and there are large-bodied beauties. What was the author trying to say?

Describe the lady in blue in two sentences
Describe the lady in blue in two sentences | Source

Let Me Give You an Example

Allow me to use an excerpt from my new novel, “Resurrecting Tobias.” At first, when I introduced the character Maria, I was going to write that she was a beautiful young woman. I wrote that sentence and then cringed. It simply would not do. This is what I decided upon instead:

. “Her hair was midnight glowing in the late afternoon sun, and her pale skin reminded me of a porcelain doll. Petite would be an apt description, but there was a strength to her readily apparent at first glance. Her face was heart-shaped, with full lips and the cutest damned ears I’d ever seen.”

Now we have a description that gives the reader something to consider and visualize.

Let’s take a look at an excerpt from one of my favorite mystery writers, James Lee Burke:


“My worst dreams have always contained images of brown water and fields of elephant grass and the downdraft of helicopter blades. The dreams are in color but they contain no sound, not of drowned voices in the river or the explosions under the hooches in the village we burned or the thropping of the Jolly Green and the gunships coming low and flat across the canopy, like insects pasted against a molten sun.

In the dream I lie on a poncho liner, dehydrated with blood expander, my upper thigh and side torn by wounds that could have been put there by wolves. I am convinced I will die unless I receive plasma back at battalion aid. Next to me lies a Negro corporal, wearing only his trousers and boots, his skin coal-black, his torso split open like a gaping red zipper from his armpit down to his groin, the damage to his body so grievous, traumatic, and terrible to see or touch he doesn't understand what has happened to him.”

From “The Tin Roof Blowdown”

Yes, there are a few adverbs in that passage, as well as a couple adjectives…but….he could have written that passage this way:

“I have had some horrible dreams filled with terrifying images.”

He chose, instead, to use the tools of his craft to write an image so vivid as to leave the reader breathless.

You better believe it took some work to do what he did in those two paragraphs.

Lazy writers need not apply.

What can you do with this one?
What can you do with this one? | Source

Let’s Look at the Most Common Adverbs

Here are the top ten adverbs used in the English-speaking world:

  1. up
  2. so
  3. out
  4. just
  5. now
  6. how
  7. then
  8. more
  9. also
  10. here

And now let’s take a look at overused adjectives:

  1. good
  2. new
  3. first
  4. last
  5. long
  6. great
  7. little
  8. own
  9. other
  10. old

Seriously my friends, are not those words beneath you as a writer? If I write “he was a great friend,” am I really making an effort? If I write “it was a good party,” am I really stretching myself as a writer?

And how about you? Are you guilty of using a few of those words from time to time?

Describe this scene
Describe this scene | Source

Let’s Take a Look at Another Example

This excerpt is from John D. MacDonald’s novel “The Long Lavender Look.” In this excerpt you will definitely find some adjectives and adverbs, but what I want you to notice is his attention to detail, and the way he used adverbs and adjectives for maximum effect. The scene is of two men hitchhiking down a highway.

“Scuff and clump of shoes on the blacktop. Keening orchestras of tree toads and peepers. Gu-roomp of a bullfrog. Whine song of the hungry mosquito keeping pace, then a whish of the fly whisk improvised from a leafy roadside weed. Jet going over, too high to pick out the lights. Startled caw and panic-flapping of a night bird working the canal for his dinner. And once, the eerie, faraway scream of a Florida panther.”

When I read that passage, I not only can picture that scene in my mind, but I find myself swatting at imaginary mosquitoes while reading it.

That is great writing! There is nothing lazy about that writing.

Final Thoughts

I do not want to give the impression that I think adverbs and adjectives are useless tools. I do not! I do think, however, that many writers lean on them too heavily, and by doing so they cheat their readers.

I want to give you an assignment. Do it, don’t do it, that’s completely up to you. I would hope you give it a try.

I’m going to give you a short sentence, and I want you to rewrite that sentence using your skills as a writer. Paint a picture. Dazzle me with your abilities.

Here is your sentence:

“It was a very cold night as I slowly walked home.”

You can write your new sentence in the comment section, or just do it for your own growth as a writer.

Finally, let me say thank you to Lea for suggesting this article. Lea, you are a quality human being and I am proud to call you my friend.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      GREAT comment, Glimmer! LOL I am so appreciative of you. Thank you for reading all these today....here's another word I need to work on....you are AWESOME!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Yet another hub to get me motivated to go back and tweak my hubs. I should probably do a count of how many time I use "great". Thanks for the inspiration.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Audrey! Obviously I'm preaching to the choir with this one, but a little reminder never hurts, right?

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      I took a course in descriptive writing from a famous romance novelist. She taught me so much about describing people and places. It was great, Bill, to read this hub with emphasis on not using so many adverbs and adjectives and adverbs in writing. I think it will help many hubbers. It is a great review and more for me. Sharing. Blessings. Audrey

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, well done my friend. Love your description and of course, you are very welcome. Thank you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      My feet scraped the cement leaving wet imprints behind as I felt the chilly ebony sky draping my shoulders. Bill, I can't thank you enough for pushing me to write better. I'm saving this post forever!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...thank you Shyron. I'll be thinking about that all weekend now.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Bill, I don't know about that, Just has it's place.

      I had a friend who was pregnant, her last name is Case.

      You guessed it! Just-in Case.

      You have a great weekend too and you are welcome.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shyron, love it. LOL "just" should be stricken from the English language. In fact, I'm not doing much today, so maybe I'll start a petition. LOL Have a great weekend and thank you.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Bill, this is bookmarked so I can continue to learn from you my friend.

      This is powerful and I will be back. If you ever think of giving up, Just remember people like me who are JUST learning....SO don't JUST, let us down.

      You are the best, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...thank you, Ann, for the brilliant exclamation. As for your writing sample....yes, you got it...brilliant!

      Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for your kind words.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      My fingers numbed and aching through lack of gloves, my muscles tensed against the pull of the ice on tarmac, my breath steaming on the thick, cutting air, I trudged on to the painful thaw that would assail me as I crossed the threshold of home.

      Great challenge, bill; it made me think hard about each word. There are some great responses here but then there are some great writers on hubpages; I admire and applaud them all. You are the master of advice and mentoring and you are in the top 5 of all writers here. Brilliant, bill!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb....I absolutely love it! Well done my talented friend.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The ice over my trusting head looked like the Sword of Damocles about to give me a good run. Who was I to question what was going to happen next? Was I the inept fool in the light of the end of the day, or should I skate across the road trying to escape the fact that my number might be up? Fare thee well my friends, but I won't quit that easily...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Ann, I love that story, and I like your fiction effort. It is much better than many I have read, so don't sell yourself short. Thanks for the smile today.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      It was a very cold night as I slowly walked home.

      The chill of the air in the night went through to my bones and I could barely walk.

      Told you I wasn't a fiction writer! Great suggestions, Bill. It reminded me of an English teacher I had who delighted in telling us a joke. It was about prepositional phrases. She said you should never end a sentence with a prepostion. We should all memorize them. Then, she said, there is a list of them, up with which she would not put.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cydni, "amazing" is one of those words that people drive into the ground with a sledgehammer. True, life is amazing, but things tend to lose their significance when everything is amazing....anyway, I get it, and I thank you.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 3 years ago from Western NC

      My one word lately that drives me nuts? "Amazing." Everyone seems to say "that's amazing." "She's amazing." "You're amazing." Haha. Í'm rather tired of "amazing." Please tell me that, "the work you do, day after day, getting up, drumming along like Energizer Bunny - well, frankly, I'm surprised you haven't keeled over at the work you do." --- THAT, to me, is amazing. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vkwok, you are always here, and for that I am very appreciative.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for the lessons, Bill! I should definitely keep them in mind.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Frank, and I thank you for all the visits today.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      well professor... I thank you again for keeping me sharp bless you

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great example, Kathleen. There are writers who go through the motions, taking shortcuts and cheating everyone who reads their work, and then there are writers determined to use all the tools of this language to create a work of art. Obviously, you know the difference.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I took a creative writing course in college and one of the assignments I still remember was on "telling facts." To this day it is my favorite writing tool. I makes adverbs and adjectives obsolete. Don't tell me she was beautiful - write a paragraph showing me her beauty. Great topic!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I love it. I used to do the same thing when I was teaching. There were no easy answers in my classroom. LOL Only the brave survive. :) Thanks my friend.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Even though useful, awesome and interesting are adjectives whose definition depends on the individual, I voted for them on this hub anyway. :)

      It also should be noted that we tend to use vague adjectives and adverbs in everyday speech which can make communication, and even relationships, difficult. I've found that by asking people "What does that mean?" (or something similar) can be very disarming for them and shake them out of overusing words which mean nothing and everything.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Cyndi10...enjoy your day as well.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Vellur. Thank you so much.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE! I'm glad you liked it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Shelley and thank you! Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much Alicia.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      alexadry, thanks for sharing that. It does take work to overcome those common adjectives, but I think it is worth it in the end.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 3 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Billy, Thanks for my smile! Have a great day.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, the paragraph from your novel is descriptive and paints a pretty picture. Learned a lot today.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible hub! Your ideas are helpful and most informative.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      Thank you for stretching me this morning, always appreciate and follow your ideas to improve my readability. Up, awesome!!, useful and interesting.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the Mark Twain quote! I love your advice, too, Bill. Thanks for sharing it.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      A few years ago. I was writing for a company that didn't want us to use common adjectives such as good, great or beautiful, just like the ones you describe. It took quite an effort at times to come up with alternatives and back then I realized how easy it was to overuse them and depend on them. I therefore compiled a long list of different types of adjectives and it really came handy. I wished I still had it. My computer crashed one day and I lost all that information:(

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish. There were definitely some good ones.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed reading all the entries to your challenge.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lea, you deserve this and much more. Thank you for supporting me so often and so enthusiastically. You are greatly appreciated my dear. If this has helped you then I am very happy.

      blessings always and hello to your husband

      bill

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 3 years ago from Upstate New York

      OH BILLY BUC, just signing on before dinner, my husband due home soon, but I am just THRILLED with this hub, and I am humbled of your mention of me.

      Also so happy you answered my question about the beautiful woman. LOVE the description of Maria, which, of course, I read in your manuscript...AND since I read it, even though I can't remember exactly what you wrote word for word, I STILL pictured her from your description throughout "Resurrecting Tobias!"

      I so appreciate your satisfying my curious inquiry of how you would describe 'beautiful.'

      Also LOVE your excerpts.

      I also appreciate your examples of adverbs and adjectives...this is extremely helpful to those of us with the writing bug. All of these are so helpful with the valuable information you are trying to get across to us.

      This will be another printout for my Billy Buc file.

      I will be back to respond to your exercises. God bless, and thank you from my heart for your note at the beginning and the end of this fantastic, informative hub. So thrilled to be a 'part' of a topic idea :) Sparklea

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Denise. The simile of the icicles is perfect. Love it! Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, nothing, really....try adding a metaphor to describe the snow piling up...or a simile to tell us how cold it felt. Those would be my suggestions to give the reader a better sense of the cold and the depth of the snow.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      “It was a very cold night as I slowly walked home.”

      Denise's version:

      My breath hung in the air like icicles from a tin roof as I trudged, one foot in front of the other through the crackling soil. Home seemed an eternity away.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      The night air was bitter cold, and the falling snow was beginning to pile high as i slowly made my way home to the warmth of my crackling fireplace.

      Be honest, what did i do wrong?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, your nose dropping is wonderful. Thanks for playing along, thanks for the kind words, and thanks for the laugh.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      The night was so cold that my breath froze, dropped, and broke my big toe. The icicle growing from the end of my nose frightened away the wolves, and I hobbled safely home.

      Your description of Maria is a gem. It brought a memory of a girl on whom I had a secret crush in 5th grade, though I only ever saw her at a distance on the playground.

      I learned about stuffing prose with excessive adjectives and adverbs when I read THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY by Burton.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, now that passage was written by a true writer. I could see the scene, and that is the litmus test for a good description. Well done...Well done!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bongani, yours is the perfect description of writing. I love it! Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      PS, you are missed for sure, but family and love are calling you, and we all understand that call. Blessings to you always, with a hug mixed in for good measure.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, I'm getting some great examples on this exercise. I'll have to do this again in another hub. Thanks for your example, and have a glorious day.

      blessings and a hug heading your way

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, that is a great analogy....we grow as writers, and hopefully so does out vocabulary. Thank you for that my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shanmarie, not unless they want to catch a nasty cold. LOL But I love the work amble. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sanjay, I can't imagine writing in English as a third language. You do very well indeed.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 3 years ago from Georgia

      Writers love writing exercises, don't we? But I find it difficult to know when to use brevity and just a few of the standards and when to really go in depth with the description. It's a delicate balance, I think. Anyway, here's my try:

      My six inch pink patent leather, little more than straps of shoes did little to keep my feet warm. The toenails looked great, painted the latest incarnation of red, but I was sure that underneath the Chanel brand of polish, they were turning robins egg blue. My coat on the other hand, now pulled tightly around my slightly shivering shoulders, was about as useful as the pearl pins sticking in the very stylish chignon my stylist concocted just for this event. The palest peach colored gown that the coat barely covered had only a few more straps than the heels. In a word, I looked as if I could pose for a photo op and make the cover of Vogue, but it did me no good as I looked around the deserted street. The only movement - the fat flakes of snow starting to drift languidly from a dull grey sky. I stomped my feet in a useless show of impatience. "That'll teach me," I murmured through chattering teeth. "That's the last time I'll run out of an overcrowded, overheated, noisy party when I'm more than a little tipsy and angry as hell!" I was trying to make it home, but I knew now that I was not only foolish, I was lost!

      Oops! Got a bit carried away with the exercise. Bill, you always have such good advice and information to share. We are all glad you share it. Thanks. Voted up and sharing. Take care.

    • Bongani Sibeko profile image

      Bongani Sibeko 3 years ago from Johannesburg

      Oh what can I say? Writing is art that must be chiseled and perfected every time a pen touches a paper. Classic piece and we shall continue seeking improvement at our craft!

      Thanks Bill

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi Bill

      It seems as if writing that 'speaks' to us as readers is a delightful (o, my, I used one) of images created through carefully selected verbage and just the perfect adjective or adverb that is just off stage waiting to complete our thoughts.

      thank you as always sharing what you know that produces writing others wish to read and reread.

      Missing you and your writings but think of you and others whose writing I DO so enjoy and admire Many Angels are winging their way to you and yours this a.m. ps

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      "Laboriously, I trudged along with lead feet, as the cold, dank air escaped my weary body passing over my cracked lips, as dogmatic thoughts kept me homeward bound."

      Great exercises to keep our minds sharp!

      Lea is a special person to have as a friend, I know this to be true! She is an angel.

      Blessings

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I remember when my daughter got promoted to second grade, she said she could no longer use first grade words. So "grow up" is the message. We ought to improve and you make it seem the sensible thing to do. I agree with someone before me. You offer very useful continuing education. Thank you.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 3 years ago from Texas

      Thanks, except that after I wrote that I thought a bit more. It would require additional information. People don't generally purposely walk slowly through that kind of cold, as the word amble suggests.

    • sanjay-sonawani profile image

      Sanjay Sonawani 3 years ago from Pune, India.

      Thanks. Helpful for a person like me for whom English is third language and want to learn more how to write quality English!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Jamie. I'm glad you are worried about grammar. All writers should be. :)

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      I am always worried about grammar, thank you for a little continuing education. Jamie

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, as you British say...brilliant! I love it and it is quite good. Thank you for joining in.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, now I know what I can get you for Christmas...a book of exercises just like this one. LOL You did quite well with the exercise....and I am looking forward to your book with intense anticipation. :)

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Richard, I loved the last section of your sentence...an invitation to the elements....great line. I wish I had thought of that. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, shanmarie, if that sentence is an example of what you can do, I say you do it quite well. Nicely done. Thanks for taking part in this exercise.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      "The icy teeth of the night bite through the flimsy over coat, a razor cutting into my very bones. Head bowed, I hugged my chest, step by step I made my way back home."

      Bill, I don't know if this is any good, but at least I had a go. :)

      Brilliant hub, this, I'll be keeping for reference. You should do more like this. Blessings.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      The evening cool had quickly turned into a bitter biting cold, so I pulled my threadbare coat closer around my neck and found the well warn path a welcome comfort as I leaned on the butt of my rifle and slowly stumbled that last mile home.

      I think mine is an example of what we should NOT be doing.

      You have some amazing replies and super examples given in the comments.

      You might as well tie my hands behind my back and throw me into the deep end of the pool. I have adjectives for breakfast and adverbs for dinner. I snack on nouns and verbs throughout the day, and would simply die if I didn't have a big bowl of prepositions with a dollop of pronouns sitting on top, right before bedtime.

      Bill, don't make me write a country ballad entitled, "Please Don't

      Take My Adverbs Away From Me". It would surely be a tear jerker!! :-)

      DJ.

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 3 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      "My bones ached with the chill seeping into them from the icy without as I walked home, each labored step an invitation to the elements gathering in the darkness."

      A very timely reminder for me.

      Thank you for this!

      Richard

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon 3 years ago from Texas

      Ambling home, the chill of the night cut like a jagged knife straight to the bone.

      Interesting hub! I try to write descriptively and often find myself never quite satisfied with the way I have described something. But, it is definitely a challenge to get the reader to hopefully see something the way I picture it in my own mind.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vicki, for sure, in non-fiction as well. Thanks for your thoughts, though I'm pretty sure you would have done quite well with the exercise.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      What great advice, Bill! Yes, I overuse great. And good. I'm afraid to try the cold night and slow walk home sentence, as I feel terribly inept at descriptions. That's probably why I'm not much of a fiction writer. We can all, however, use more vivid word choices--in non-fiction, too! I enjoyed this hub very much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rachael, I think your problem is a common one. I know I do the same thing, and I sure love exclamation points!!!!

      Seriously, the fact that you recognize that you are doing it is great news. There are a lot of writers out there who have no idea that they are switching back and forth in the point of view. Thanks for the observations and the visit.

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      Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

      I admit to adverb overuse, and using lots of exclamation points (lol) but my main problem is flipping back and forth between 3rd person and 1st person - he, she, they, you and I. I try to write in 3rd person most of the time, and find myself ending up in 1st person. I am so busy putting myself in the place of the character that sometimes I don't catch the changeover that I'm using "you or I" until the 2nd or 3rd read through. And that makes me so mad.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Theresa, I love it. Nicely done, and thank you for taking the time to lead by example.

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      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Helpful (good) essay and extremely useful (good) advice. :) It is surprising how easy it is to begin relying on short, simple words. I only have a couple of minutes, but here is my version. :)

      It happened to be an unseasonable and frightfully icy evening, but I continued pensively slogging through the accumulated snow drifts heading toward the warmth and welcome of home.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sherrituck, you got that right! Now if we can only remember it the next time we write. :) Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Shyron. If this helps you then I am a happy writer.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for playing along, Sha. I knew I could count on some quality sentences from you. As for HP, I don't have a clue, but it's been going on for two days now and it's annoying as hell.

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      Sherri Tuck 3 years ago from Virginia

      A writer's goal is to make the audience taste, feel, smell, and see the words that he or she writes. There is bland writing and then there is great writing as your article reminds us.

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      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Bill, this is great. You got me and I need to bookmark and read this often. My biggest mistake is not re-reading before publishing. Just before publishing.

      Voted up, UAI and will share

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      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      K, I'm back Teach! Here's what I've come up with off the cuff:

      Lady in Blue:

      Her smile radiates sunshine. With chestnut hair cascading over the gentle slope of her shoulders, she exudes femininity.

      The cold night challenge:

      I only had a mile to go and was inwardly kicking myself in the ass. Who knew my car would break down in the dead of night? My mind wandered as I wrapped my arms around myself in an attempt to keep the chilling winds from stopping me in my tracks.

      BTW, I'm still not getting notifications of your posts or responses to my comments. I've double checked and my 'follow' status hasn't changed. What the hell is up with HP?

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Liz, that's the key, to be aware of it. Once ignorance is pushed aside, we have the chance of writing something darned good. :) Thank you as always.

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      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I used to utilize the words "just" and "simply" in almost every paragraph, followed by "of course" or something of the like. I am still guilty of it, but I am now aware of it and try to stop myself before those words hit the screen!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Marlene, most of us are. Now that you are aware of it, you can look for it in the future. Easy peasy, right? :) Thank you Marlene.

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      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Oh man! I have a lot of rewriting to do. Now that I've read your hub, I realize I am guilty of adverb overuse.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheez, Lizzy, is there any other way to die? LOL That's a classic! Talk about a lazy writer.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The class is going well, Sha, thank you! Good luck on those assignments.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nicely done, Jan! I knew you could do it and do it well. :) thanks for the visit.

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      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      You see adverb and adjective abuse a lot in mainstream articles by writers who get paid a good bit of cash to fill up a column. One that sticks out in my mind I read a week or so ago: "He sadly died in December 2013."

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      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I'll have to get back with you on the cold night and the lady in blue. I'm in the middle of an assignment right now, but I'll be back! BTW, how's your class going?

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      Janis Leslie Evans 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Tired from the day, the stark chill of the damp night penetrated my jacket with each step of my slow walk home.

      Thanks, teacher, for this hub. Very useful exercises for all writers. I am guilty of using adverbs and adjectives to extend and fill. :-) I will pay more attention to that and up my game. Voted up and useful.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I know what you are talking about, breakfastpop, and I felt cheated when I realized that fact. Yes, much to learn, and yes, so much fun learning it. Thank you and good morning.

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      breakfastpop 3 years ago

      I have learned yet another valuable thing, thanks to you and your generous advice. It's funny, but lately I have read a few books that got great reviews, yet when I almost reached the end I had no idea what the main characters looked like! There is so much to learn, which is one of the pleasures of writing. Up, useful, interesting and awesome!

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, we are all guilty, but realizing it makes it possible to improve. Thank you as always my "terribly loyal" friend. :)

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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Raises my hand in shame! But yes you get the point, I too have been more then guilty of using both in my writing. Like you I cringe when I realize it, but I guess at the very least an easy trap to fall in. I have pinned this to remind me to do a better job at not using either in the future. Thanks Bill and Happy Wednesday!