Sunday, December 6, 2009

Too Many Modifiers, Jennifer Kerr

Adverbs and adjectives are undoubtedly an important part of language. These words help to form clearer and more vivid images in a reader’s mind, and as Shayna Fehr points out in her “Add a Little Spice” post, they “allow writers to expand their imaginations.” However, less-than-desirable effects can be had when these descriptive words are overused.

Too many adjectives or adverbs can slow down reading and make a piece of writing confusing. When a writer uses long strings of adjectives to describe a noun, or of adverbs to describe a verb, the reader can become bored or confused by the time he or she reaches the word that is being modified. The actual word that is modified by the adjectives or adverbs can lose their significance if the writer feels the need to prop them up with too many descriptive words.

Additionally, some readers may find that by having every last detail filled in for them by the writer is an insult to their imaginations. It isn’t necessary to provide every detail of a tree, from the exact shade of its bark to the texture of its leaves, when most readers of the work are familiar with trees and could have formed the image in their minds without being told. Having to read about the details of the tree can merely be irritating, and distract from the true intent of the piece of writing.

Descriptive language such as adverbs and adjectives is important in any piece of writing, but writers should be careful not to overuse them. Most writers try to convey an idea or set of information with their work, but by bogging down their writing with excessive descriptive modifiers, they risk diluting their message, and boring their readers.


  1. I completely agree with you, Jennifer. The use of too many adjectives and adverbs can really dilute your message and end up making your description unclear. I think that one of the signs of a gifted or experienced writer is the ability to convey a strong message using few words.

  2. I have to agree as well. For a potential future writer, it is sometimes tempting to show off their vocabulary, but it is certainly much more accomodating to readers to keep things simple.

  3. You have some very strong points in your post. Using too many words to describe what you're trying to get across to your readers can confuse them. Simple, clear, legible writing is often the best way to go.