Choosing the best word can make your writing clearer, stronger, more effective, and more interesting. A more specific word can convey more information. Often adjectives and adverbs are a clumsy replacement for a well-chosen noun or verb. Some words are so bland and vague that they tell the reader almost nothing. Such words should almost always be replaced.
A specific word tells us more than a generic word. A dog could be a collie, a terrier, or a mutt. If a woman walks, does she stroll, wander, or march? The image that we get when we read about a grandmother marching along with her collie is so much more vivid than when we read about a woman walking along with her dog.
The right words can make your writing vivid and memorable. Consider the following examples:
- Bland - The house was on fire.
- Vivid - Flames erupted from the windows.
- Bland - Goliath was taller than David.
- Vivid - The giant towered over David.
The vivid examples are more effective because they are specific, they are dramatic, and they create an image in the reader's mind.
Removing Adjectives and Adverbs
If you can replace an adverb and a verb with a better verb by itself, you probably should. It will usually improve your writing. "The man ran quickly" should be "the man sprinted" or "the man dashed." "She said loudly" might be "she shouted" or "she called."
Take the same approach with adjectives, replacing them when you can. A terrible, oppressive leader is a tyrant. A strong, fit person is an athlete. A mean, intimidating person is a bully.
Watch out for words that say almost nothing. Consider the verb "to go." Almost any other verb will tell the reader more about what happened. "I went to the store" is vague. "I drove to the store" or "I walked to the store" is better. "Vehicle" could refer to a car, truck, or bus.
If you must use adjectives or adverbs, use good ones. Words like "good" and "bad," "wonderful" and "terrible," are so vague that they are almost meaningless. Dig deeper and find a better description.