Writer’s Tips #8: Don’t Over-describe

writers tipsWhen you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Limit yourself to two adjectives per noun. If you need more:

  • pick a stronger noun
  • break up the description into several sentences. People can’t keep track of that much detail.

I know, it’s tempting to tell us everything about the colorful, flower-filled, meandering nature path, but don’t give in. If it’s that important, tell me more about the flowers that fill the path, more about what it meanders through–you get the idea.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean”. Adjectives are excuses for missing the words that describe what you mean.

Please add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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3 thoughts on “Writer’s Tips #8: Don’t Over-describe

  1. Hi Jacqui, what is the name of the element of language where we over-describe? eg “I am not interested in hearing your excuses, in any way, shape or form, not now, next week or ever?”


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