When you catch an adjective, kill it.

It was Mark Twain who famously said, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.”

Ernest Hemingway at work.

Famous writers and the best of journalists have agreed upon the danger of overusing adjectives for centuries. Too many adjectives weaken writing, and we are seeing poor writing too frequently these days, especially online.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “I was taught to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.”

What got me on the subject of adjectives is a timely commentary on BuzzFeed.com that reminds me of how adjectives detract from clear writing and communications. It’s called, “15 Unnecessary Journalism Phrases,” and the entire commentary is a good read. Here are a few of the “unnecessary:”

  • Absolutely necessary …
  • Very unique …
  • Completely destroyed …
  • A person familiar with the matter …
  • Said informed sources …
  • Awesome …
  • Must see …
  • This will blow your mind …
  • Ramp-up …
  • At the end of the day …

These and others … hundreds that have crept into the popular lexicon … are junk words and phrases that mean nothing and detract from clear writing and communication.

Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adjectives.”