“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”
William Strunk

  • Good one, especially verbs.

  • Ick. I hate quotes that make sense…

  • I always enjoy alienating my friends, so I think I'll argue this point.
    I'm not crazy about "not" rules for writing. Writers should do what works. But this one in particular bothers me, possibly because of a B that I got on a writing assignment in grad school. (The prof's comment: "Your frequent use of adverbs reduces the gravity of your presentation." My muttered response contained a verb, an adverb and a pronoun.)
    But consider this old chestnut:
    Red sky at night:
    sailor's delight.
    Red sky at morning:
    sailor take warning.

    Take the adjective away and it's not ungrammatical; it just doesn't have any point.

    • I'm harder to alienate than that.
      The point of this is pretty much a different slant on Twain's "lightning vs lightning bug". Personally i find Twain to have the most sensible advice on writing (and many other things) of anyone.

      • We're definitely on the same page about Twain. I'm a huge fan (especially the "Fenimore Cooper" essays).

  • That’s as may be; but you can’t play chess without adjectives. The noun has not been built that will distinguish, alone and unaided, between the White Queen and the Black Queen.
    You may object that this is not what the eminent Mr. Strunk meant. But I have known persons so hagridden by Emerson’s famous hobgoblin that they objected as if by reflex to any use of adjectives or adverbs at all. If you tell some people not to write with adjectives and adverbs, they will take that as an absolute prohibition, and make life a misery for those who know better. Such advice loses value by its rhetoric: it becomes worse than useless to the ones who need it most. It loses accuracy in pursuit of a spurious precision, like Edwin J. Goodman’s famous attempt to define pi as exactly equal to 3.2. Caveat lector.

    • Exactly!
      And then there's the whole flutter over "said" versus "other words that aren't as invisible." If I want to be explicit that a statement is made in an angry tone, I get to choose between "said, darkly" and "growled."
      It's possible to overdo the adverbs and adjectives, just as it's possible to overdo the verbs… But moderation is the key. An adjective will not rescue the wrong noun — but it will dance elegantly with the right one.

    • I luff, luff, luff that icon.

  • It's simpler than that. Perfect pitch in a world of the tone deaf.
    The vital part of the quote above is "weak or inaccurate noun" and also the implied "weak or inaccurate verb."
    Consider adjectives and adverbs suspect, not sins.
    If a sentence doesn't "sound right", you fix what's wrong with it until it does. But to do that, you have to have a sense of pitch.
    In training your sense of pitch, make sure you have your nouns and verbs solid.
    "Said" versus "growled." If you're just trying to avoid saids, growled is bad. If it's the appropriate, strong verb, growled is good.
    If you fix a weak noun or verb, then the next thing in fixing an awkward sentence is counting the adverbs particularly as suspect. People tend to use adjectives more reasonably. If your suspect adverb is guilty, bust it.
    Read softly, and carry a big blue pencil.

    • You really need to do more public posts on process lady love.

  • You have to know what the rules are before you can break them.

    • I'm sure that icon is illegal in some parts of the US and most of the Middle East.