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Ramp up content with jacked-up adjectives
How to write emotionally engaging content
Whether you are internet blogging, writing advertising copy, or authoring articles, what better way to secure your reader's attention than to include words that tap the imagination to see, taste, and feel. By enriching your writing and enhancing the readers' experience with more understanding and clarity through adjectives that play on sensory recall, bloggers and wordsmiths can put these powerful parts of speech to work to ramp up their writing and increase reader response.
At the risk of encouraging the over-use of adjectives, because let's face it, there is nothing more boring than getting bogged down with over-kill description, there is a powerful weapon available in every writer's arsenal. With that mind, let's see how you can power up your own sentences with strategically placed adjectives.
First, we'll define adjective, it's common usage, and placement in sentences. Then review three great ways to use adjectives more effectively in copywriting and content writing: 1) to create visual imagery that invites emotional response, 2) to increase detail and clarity for rich, meaning packed messages, and 3) and to create powerful metaphors that quickly grab readers' attention, which is especially useful in headline writing.
A word of advice from from J. McNamara, Capital Community College: "Adjectives are frail; don't ask them to do more work than they should. Let your broad-shouldered verbs and nouns do the hard work of description. Be particularly cautious in your use of adjectives that don't have much to say in the first place: interesting, beautiful, lovely, exciting. It is your job as a writer to create beauty and excitement and interest, and when you simply insist on its presence without showing it to your reader — well, you're convincing no one."
What is an adjective?
Definition of an adjective: "ad·jec·tive (jk-tv)n. Abbr. a. or adj. 1. The part of speech that modifies a noun or other substantive by limiting, qualifying, or specifying and distinguished in English morphologically by one of several suffixes, such as -able, -ous, -er, and -est, or syntactically by position directly preceding a noun or nominal phrase. 2. Any of the words belonging to this part of speech, such as white in the phrase a white house."
Source: The Free Dictionary
How are adjectives used: Adjectives modify or change a noun in some way; usually by answering one of these questions: "What kind?" or "Which?" or "How many?" For example: "The new kid brought chocolate donuts." New tells us which kid; and chocolate tells the type of donuts.
Where are adjectives placed: Adjectives are most often placed immediately before the noun they are describing, (e.g. The red rose...), however they can also come after the noun/verb phrase, (e.g. The rose is red.) However, with indefinite pronouns, such as 'someone' or 'anybody,' they are placed after the pronoun (e.g. anybody would be frightened; someone is missing)
What is an adjective clause: An adjective clause is when a phrase that contains a subject and verb is used as an adjective. (e.g. Tom, who had a recent heart-attack, is now a long-distance runner.)
What is an adjective phrase: An adjective phrase does not have a subject and verb. (e.g. Sue, already late, was still trimming the Christmas tree.)
What are comparative and superlative adjectives: Adjectives that end in -er and -est compare nouns, where -er compares two things (e.g. Jill is smaller than Joe), and -est compares three or more things, (e.g. Tom an Sue are quick, but Joe is the fastest.)
Superlative adjectives compare one thing with every other member of a group. (e.g. Of all the players, Joe is the fastest.)
Creating visual imagery with colorful content
In copywriting, the adjective references our sensory memory and stimulates the imagination of the reader. We know the taste of jalapeno-hot, and we are familiar with the color of burnt-orange, and may have even felt weightless. The adjective uses what is already stored in our collective memory and recalls the experience for a new concept.
- The blood red sunset appeared to drench the deserted cabin in blood.
- Her tear-streaked face lay quiet on the downy pillow.
- No one alive was found amidst the mountainous rubble.
Strategically placed adjectives add detail and clarity
Think of the adjective as the fastest way to fine-tune your message with additional detail and emotional impact; exactly what electronic content writers are asked to do, as well as any good promotional writer. One quick qualifier inserted before your subject can inject more meaning and allow fuller personal understanding than a paragraph of facts. If you are a news reporter, you may preferred 'just the facts, Mam'. That's fine; however, as a content writer whose mission is to emotionally involve your reader, and bring as much meaning as you can within the shortest amount of words as in internet text, you can selectively pack your sentences more fully with discriminating use of the adjective.
"The boy snatched an apple," gives the facts. However, "The hungry boy snatched a discarded apple," as apposed to "The wicked boy snatched the tempting apple," throws a whole new perspective on the message. These selective placements of adjectives allow the reader to more fully participate in the experience of the subject, and convey a truer observation.
Additionally, by adding hyphens to adjectives that each qualify a noun independently, you can even invent phrases that act as new 'compound words.' For example, "The hungry boy snatched the discarded-overripe apple."
Compound adjectives (when to hyphenate adjectives): "A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective can be linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective. In the UK, your readers will expect you to use hyphens in compound adjectives. Americans are more lenient. The US ruling is: Use a hyphen if it eliminates ambiguity or helps your reader, else don't bother. If you're unsure, use hyphens. You won't be marked down for using hyphens." -GrammerMonster
Adjectives used with countable and uncountable nouns
When using countable and uncountable nouns, some adjectives are 'countable-specific.'
Countable nouns: Can be expressed in plural form, usually with an "s." For example, "spoon—spoons," "week—weeks," "mountain—mountains."
Uncountable nouns: Usually cannot be expressed in a plural form. For example, "fish," "water," "air," "money," "food." Usually, you can't say, "He had many moneys."
Most of the time, this doesn't matter with adjectives. For example, you can say, "The cat was gray" or "The air was gray." However, the difference between a countable and uncountable noun does matter with certain adjectives, such as the following:
- Some/any: Both "some" and "any" can modify countable and uncountable nouns.
- Much/many: "Much" modifies only uncountable nouns."Many" modifies only countable nouns. (e.g. The horse drinks so much water.)
- Little/few: "Much" modifies only uncountable nouns;"Many" modifies only countable nouns. (There are a few doctors in town.)
- A lot of/lots of: "A lot of" and "lots of" are informal substitutes for much and many. They are used with uncountable nouns when they mean "much" and with countable nouns when they mean "many."
- A little bit of: "A little bit of" is informal and always precedes an uncountable noun. (e.g. There is a little bit of pepper in the soup.)
- Plenty of: "Plenty of" modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
- Enough: Modifies both countable and non countable nouns.
- No: Modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
Source: Owl, Purdue Online Writing Lab
And finally, create meteoric metaphors for hard-hitting headlines
When you can't think of any single word that conveys the right message, you can get creative with the wonderful world of metaphors via compound adjectives.
By juxtaposing two parts of speech, a noun with an adjective — and the more more opposing, the more tension and interest — you can create a brand new concept, which is literally, neither word, by itself. Therefore, you have created a metaphor. You can really spice up your copy block by infusing your writing with blasts of meteoric metaphors.
This is a great little tool for headline writing. Powerful headlines need to be brief and packed with meaning. By pairing up a powerful duo, the main point of your headline comes across loud and clear. Here are a few examples:
- absolutely everything
- fast access
- dark angel
- non-stop trend
- seamless production
met·a·phor: noun \ˈme-tə-ˌfȯr also -fər\
: a word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar
: an object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else
Source: Merriam-webster Dictionary
For more tips regarding writing effective headlines, see Professor Gibson's "Making Words Work" website. Don't ignore your basic SEO requirements, check Hubpages, for 'Search-friendly Title (headline)' guidelines.
Last Tip: Listen to the people around you. What do they say that cracks you up? What was the phrase that grabbed your attention and pulled you into their story? Last night my husband was describing a guy at work that he thought was talking nonsense, and he called him a "potato." Then, he further refined it by adding an adjective... "freshly-dug potato." I'm still chuckling! I'm not sure how I'm going to work that into anything… yet.
I hope this stimulates a few new ideas as you approach your next next writing project. When you need a bit of inspiration to jump-start your next idea, try spinning out your own star-quality phrases and you might be surprised at how easy (and fun!) it is to tap your creativity and engage your readers in the process. Sometimes a change of perspective is just the thing. May your next writing project be an jaw-dropping masterpiece!