Pub Writes

About the publishing Industry, editorials, and reviews

An Overabundance of Adjectives

Posted by Caitie F on September 24, 2010

I saw a very interesting and accurate tweet yesterday that I had to retweet to all of my followers. It was from @hallojen, who is the executive editor of children’s books at Random House.

“Make sure every adjective has a purpose. Avoid “creamy chocolate” or “nimble fingers” unless it’s important to know”

I have been reading partials and queries from writers and almost every single one has this issue. They overuse adjectives like crazy, especially in spots when they are unnecessary or redundant. It is overly wordy and shows that they didn’t really think about every word that they chose. Really, that is what needs to happen. Every word should be important in both the query and the manuscript.

I have gotten a few submissions for stories that have to do with vampires. I always send back to the person that, while they shouldn’t give up, no one is taking vampires anymore unless it is the absolutely best vampire manuscript ever. I pointed out the issues and said that they need to look at every word, phrase, and idea they have written and make sure it is the absolute best way they can say it.

That doesn’t just apply to vampire books though. Every writer that wants to be published should do that. I know, you have revised your manuscript so many times, but to make it in this industry, you have to be amazing. I know it is frustrating to see established authors write things that make you crazy, but they did have to go through the process too.

That is why some agents will see more than one typo or grammatical mistake and automatically say no. If the writers haven’t bothered to catch and fix typos, how could they have gone through their manuscript enough so that it is as good as it can be?

Now., it is even harder due to the economy. Publishers can’t publish as many books, so agents are taking on fewer clients, which means what you have has to be even better. Agents don’t want to have to say no to so many things. There were so many times when I was interning where we wanted to say yes because we loved the idea, but the writing just wasn’t good enough.

A suggestion (that will be added to every response I send back to submissions I get): Go through the manuscript and look at every adjective. All they all needed? Are they all the best adjective you can come up with? If not, think of something better or get rid of them completely.

Have you seen published books that use too many adjectives or adjectives that don’t make sense? *cough* Dickens *cough*. Let me know in the comments!


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