You hear it all the time, "omit needless words," "tighten your writing," and maybe you're thinking, huh? What words? How? What don't I see? How do I learn? I'm going to
try and point out some things to look for, but I don't think the knowledge won't will soak in unless really you're willing to you'll treat it as an exercise and get into it. So grab a few pages of your manuscript (double or triple spaced) and a red pen and get ready to wage war on extraneousness. This will be is a series, so keep your pages and mark them up as we go.
Disclaimer: I am no expert at this. I'm just trying to share what I've learned and may make errors or omit important info in doing so. Please add to the lessons in the comments!
ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES:
An adverb modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. They often end in -ly, but don't always, and tend to qualify, intensify, or downtone what you're saying. They also ask a question such as, How? When? Where? How much? or Why?
jumped quickly leapt onto the couch.
The boy walked
slowly and carefully tiptoed out of his room.
ran quickly from fled the scene.
"Get rid of those words!" she
said loudly and hastily shouted.
really want you to understand this.
very quiet here.
really, quite fun.
Sometimes you need adverbs to convey something more than your base words do alone, but if they're not adding to the sentence, cut! Check them all, especially your -ly words. Remember: Weak verbs depend on adverbs. If you feel you need an adverb, examine your verb before moving on.
Here are some adverbs to look for: very, not, too, really, basically, in a sense, rather, quite, extremely, totally, essentially, somewhat, almost, a bit, a little bit, nearly, severely, sort of, kind of, etc.
An adjective describes a noun or pronoun and tends to answer a question such as What kind? How many? How exactly? or Which? Adjectives are interesting because sometimes you're removing one to tighten a sentence and sometimes you're adding one.
An adjective needs to go if your noun or sentence implies the description your adjective offers (is redundant). Make sure your adjective is telling us something your noun absolutely cannot.
icy icicle hung from the ledge.
fragile glass shattered.
hot summer sun seemed stagnant that summer day.
It was a
horrible, horrible crime to shoot that woman.
small baby didn't like the harsh cackle of the evil witch.
loving mother hugged her child and said, "My heart is yours."
He was a
furious, violent, and rabid man. (In this case I'm getting rid of two adjectives and keeping one that implies the other two).
An adjective should be added if it can replace a clause or phrase and still convey what you want to convey.
The woman was
very intelligent and knew all about knowledgeable in physics. With little thought or care Irresponsibly, the couple left the dog on the side of the road.
was deserving of deserved the award.
haze of the atmosphere atmospheric haze was thick. (Watch out for "of the.") A large number of Many students love her.
within the realm of possibility that possible she had magic.
And so on and so forth.
Here is an example of a sentence that could be edited of adverbs and adjectives:
A harsh, wicked wind swept quickly through the empty streets that cold, stormy night and made a loud, mournful sound outside my thin window.
Wind swept through the streets that night and howled outside my window.
That night, wind swept through the streets and howled outside my window.
Not the greatest example, but do you see how much faster it reads? How many less words it uses? "Harsh, "wicked," and "quickly" are implied by the action of the wind sweeping through the streets. "Empty" is almost a given and doesn't seem to be relevant. "Cold" and "stormy" are implied. "Loud, mournful sound" needed to be replaced with a strong verb. "Thin" is redundant.
The one adjective I might keep is "wicked."
That night, a wicked wind swept through the streets and howled outside my window.
The key is not to cut and tighten everything that could be tightened, but to examine whether keeping, discarding, or adding an adverb or adjective best conveys your intent for the sentence in as few words as possible.
In the comments, please add examples, knowledge, and your own findings in regard to adverbs and adjectives!! Part II is now available.