1. qp83
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    qp83 Member

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    Adjectives you wish authors did not use

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by qp83, Dec 5, 2014.

    Heh, not sure if this is the right place for this topic, but I guess a kind moderator will move it otherwise :D

    Anyways, so lately I've been reading a bit more than I'm used to. For example, I just finished reading two books and have just started reading a third one. Now this probably sounds odd to most of you, but I'm really not that much of a reader; I could probably count the number of books I've read in my life with my ten fingers!

    I'm digressing. The point of this thread is that I've found adjectives that annoy the hell out of me, and I wish authors would stop using them! And I thought, maybe it would be fun if others joined in and complained about their most hated adjectives, and maybe we will all read this thread and maybe think twice or thrice before using them :D (lots of maybes... well that just like me...)

    Or, I guess... we could even debate the adjectives we hate, and maybe someone can convince me or you that our least liked adjectives actually aren't that bad.

    Anyways, here are the two adjectives I get annoyed at the most:

    chocolate
    As in chocolate brown hair or chocolate brown eyes. Maybe I don't like this word because I'm more of a chocolate eater than a reader/writer. But every time I read a character has chocolate brown hair or eyes, my tongue gets this sticky, smooth, sugary feeling, and I see videos of chocolate stirring in various machines. But I definitely never only get the color; it comes with a lot of baggage. Too much baggage in my opinion.

    jet
    As in jet black hair. I've never seen jet. And black to me is black. There's nothing more black than black. Unless it's bluish black, or... But jet? I guess my biggest problem with this adjective, is that it's used so often(at least in the books I've read), yet adds nothing.

    Okay, so those are the two adjectives I get annoyed at the most at the moment. What's yours? :D
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you have a problem with adjectives of an organic origin?

    At least they're sustainable!
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm pretty much open to an author using all of the tools at their disposal, whether it is word choice, grammar, or what have you. The only question to me is whether it works in a given situation.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah.... I cannot think of any adjectives used in narrative that bother me enough to take note of them. An adjective in narrative would only really bother me if it failed to create the desired modification, or any meaningful modification. The latter sometimes happens when an author mistakes the fact that a word is still hanging around in the dictionary - but is a completely dead word as regards normal use, or even elevated use - to mean that the word is still a valid word. It's not. If it lives only in the dictionary, and no where else, thus it pulls a blank as regards what it signifies when the reader comes across the word, then that's a dead word. Such a word would bug.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Personal annoyance doesn't mean everyone should be equally annoyed at certain adjectives. There are adjectives that get overused to the point they annoy. I think chocolate brown eyes and heart shaped face are annoyingly overused at the moment.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Telling a writer not to use certain words is like telling a mathematician not to use certain numbers.

    In other words, there aren't any adjectives that annoy me.
     
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  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I kinda agree with the op. I'm not a fan of the pointless or overused adjective especially if it's not a once or twice thing, it's something the writer is leaning on. I grew up reading a lot of ya series fiction and the writer's idea of a jazzy adjective was to say - Jessica tucked in her red t-shirt. And it was all like that. If an adjective appeared it was dead boring. I thought you might as just as well said - Jessica tucked in her t-shirt and saved yourself a word.
     
  8. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    I'm usually too focused on criticizing the author's characters to notice any annoying adjectives. If an author uses too many adjectives I get annoyed, usually not about the choice of the adjective.
     
  9. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends how many times I see them in any particular book. The current book I'm reading over uses the leaden sky. Nice the first few times I read it but it's worn out now. But this is a different problem than not liking.
    There are many adjectives that are highly descriptive but esoteric.
     
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  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, it's not an adjective, but a verb that annoys me.

    Attack
    As in, "Vanessa attacked her food."

    I've seen it used in several different books, inevitably almost always at some comedic moment or in chick lit - definitely books with a lighter tone. Still, I hate it. Yes, it serves to make me smirk a little, but I'm not sure it's always used for humour's sake. Sometimes it's used to only mean someone's ravenous, with no comedy intended.

    But seriously, every time I read that someone's attacking their food, I just get this ridiculous image of... well, someone attacking their food. It's stupid, funny for all the wrong reasons, and doesn't even begin to describe what the character's actually doing. There're words aplenty to describe someone eating - gorging, gobbling, wolfing, picked her plate clean - I dunno, and any number of analogies and similes if one wants to get creative. "Attack" is clumsy... and stupid.
     
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  11. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I have a jet ring, it's very black! I get what you mean though, it depends how it's handled. If you're describing something the words need to have value.
     
  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Over-used or redundant adjectives are quite irritating. However, I would have to choose the word "moist" as I just dislike the word intensely.
     
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  13. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I agree, but I think you've got notice when you're using these sorts of descriptions and decide if they really *do* anything for the story. If not, chuck 'em.

    And over-using adjectives (or any words) annoys me. Philip K. Dick likes the word "crimson," for example. T.C. Boyle likes to use conditional sentences. After a while, reading these over and over, it starts to distract me from the story.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Silken." It makes me think of bad romances. Oddly, "silky" doesn't bother me the same way. I don't find it particularly interesting or original, but it doesn't bother me.
     
  15. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    For me it depends. Jet is the name of a minor gemstone, the colour of which, is black, hence the term 'jet black'.

    I would rather read jet black than 'black' as there are a number of different blacks. Raven black, magpie black, black cherry black, midnight black, coal black etc.

    The chocolate one, I can't comment as I am guilty of using that one.

    But, my reading half can see where you're coming from. I hate it when a character recaps the events at the end of the day, to me, that's a writer's way of upping the word count.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If the same author uses words repetitively, I start to notice. For the most part, though, if I'm being pulled out of the narrative by adjective choices there are probably other problems with the writing that are preventing me from being drawn in.
     
  17. hummingbird
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    Like Steerpike, it bothers me more if something is used repetitively.
    It doesn't bother me if an author makes someone have jet black hair. But if everything black in the book is jet black, it gets annoying.
    I recently read a series that had 4 or 5 prominent characters built like a scarecrow. Really? The first time kind of made me go "huh, interesting comparison, several ways of interpreting it, but I can go with it." But by the last time, I was starting to wonder if the author just lacked imagination.
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hahaha somehow I imagined there were several scarecrow characters and I had the most comical image in my head :D
     
  19. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I can't remember the title or author of the book (obviously didn't leave much of an impression!) but I do remember that instead of saying face, the author used countenance every single time. That really annoyed me.
     
  20. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Now that does annoy me. It's almost like the author has brought out the thesaurus and picked the longest word on the list for what they want to replace, even though in that particular context, it's the totally wrong word!

    It's almost like they are saying "look at that big intelligent word I've just used!"
     
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  21. jannert
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    Supercalifragilistiexpialidocious ...pop that adjective into your narrative and you've lost me.

    Any word that calls undue attention to itself is off the menu as far as I'm concerned. Any descriptive word, no matter how unique, will call attention to itself if it's used more than once in any story. I'm as guilty as the next person of using a word more often than I should while writing. That's where editing comes in. If there is a favourite word you tend to use more than you ought to, do a search/replace run through your MS and deal with every instance of it. (If you have beta readers, ask them to point out these repeated words.)

    I'm also fond of the saying: If you've heard a turn of phrase before, don't use it. So 'chocolate eyes,' 'jet-black hair,' and all those other cliche descriptive terms are ripe for removal. (Notice how many of these refer to a character's physical appearance? That—right there—is something many new writers need to be wary of.)

    That doesn't mean you can't use these terms, but realise they aren't original and they will annoy some people. They will annoy a lot more people if you use them more than once.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2014
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  22. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    And they don't even mean the same thing...I might face something evil (like a psychopathic killer) but I would never countenance it. Even as a noun, countenance is more to do with the expression upon your face than merely being another name for it.
     
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  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think using it as a synonym for face (the thing at the front of your head, containing your nose, etc) is archaic. Actually, as a noun, the word itself is somewhat archaic. It's certainly not the first definition listed in the Webster's dictionary. As you said, it's more to do with the expression on a person's face (a sad countenance) than the face itself.
     
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  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Reading your reply causes me to need to modify my original reply. In Storm Constantine's Wreaththu series she describes the air having a metallic tang (as in flavor or smell or both together) on enough occasions for me notice it and make little jokes to myself. "Really, Storm? Again? Is it an aluminum tang this time or more like a chromium tang? Maybe a mercury tang? Can mercury have a tang?
     
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  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Then you will love this most inappropriate of uses. This water park is just up the street from my condo in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

    [​IMG]

    This is what happens when speakers of one language fail to remember that synonyms in any language are not always completely interchangeable. Connotations must also be taken into account.
     
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