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Sunday, August 10, 2014

When you catch an adjective


Among the lines I've saved in my "Words to Remember" file, I have kept a short statement by Mark Twain, who once noted:  "Anyone who's ever had a bull by the tail knows 5 or 6 things more than anyone who hasn't."  It's left open for each reader's interpretation, which is always the best thing for a writer to provide to his or her readers.  And, while Twain died a hundred years ago, his comment on writing "modern" English still resonates.

“Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write Englishit is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of themthen the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.” Mark Twain