Monday, May 3, 2010


Yes, you can have too many adjectives in a sentence. Normally, writers are cautioned about using too many adverbs, but the other day I read a submission which had too many adjectives. Almost every noun in the story had an adjective. On the one hand, adjectives are good. They can help give the reader the feel and tone of a person, place, or thing. But, if the reader notices that there are adjectives attached to every noun, then you have way too many.

Consider the following sentence (I'm making this up. It isn't from a submission.): The flame-haired wench strolled into the smoky tavern and sat down on a rickety chair at a grimy table next to a dirty, grease-smeared window overlooking the dusty, paved street winding through the tiny town by the rocky coast. Now imagine that every sentence in a story is like that. How long would it take before you noticed that every noun had an adjective?

That sentence points out another potential problem: too many prepositional phrases. Here's an example of too many prepositional phrases: He walked across the stone floor of the room in the castle on the hill over the river behind the woods along the coast. Those last four prepositional phrases definitely do not need to be there and slow things down. The other two may not need to be there, if you've already established that he is in a castle.

The use of adjectives and prepositional phrases is a matter of personal taste, but if one of your beta readers notices them, then you probably have too many.

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