15 Adjectives To Delete To Strengthen Your Writing Immediately

15 Adjectives To Delete To Strengthen Your Writing Immediately


Do you use too many adjectives in your writing? We look at 15 adjectives to delete or replace that will strengthen your writing immediately.

Writers should learn when and how to use adjectives (and adverbs) when they write. Using too many can destroy your credibility as a writer.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun. It explains qualities associated with places, objects, or people.

  1. A good adjective improves your writing. It makes a description clear in a reader’s mind by helping them to see exactly what you are trying to say.
  2. A poor adjective weakens your writing. It adds filler words that bore or confuse the reader. It adds nothing to the description.

Too many adjectives can be confusing. Too few can be awkward. Overusing or underusing them is distracting and it weakens your writing.

A good rule is to ask:

  1. Does it change the meaning of the sentence if I remove the adjective? If it doesn’t, remove it.
  2. Does it add to the reader’s understanding if I leave it in? If it does, leave it in.

Example 1: ‘He walked on the green grass and looked up at the blue sky.’

Grass is usually green. In most cases, you can leave it out without changing the meaning. If there has been a drought in your story, the green is important to include. The sky is normally blue. Only describe it if it isn’t blue. If you do want to include precise colours, find more specific colours to help you do it.

Example 2: ‘A woman in a dress asked about Sarah.’ should be ‘A blonde woman in a crimson sundress asked about Sarah.’

The first sentence is too sparse. We need to add some details for the reader to be able to imagine what she looks like. The second one is better. By using specific adjectives, we’ve improved the sentence.

Weak Adjectives

Do not try to strengthen weak adjectives by adding words like ‘so’, ‘very‘, and ‘really’. Replace them with a better adjective or a noun.

  1. Find a new, stronger adjective, for example ‘a really nice man’ could be ‘a kind man’.
  2. Find a precise noun that describes what the adjective is trying to say, for example ‘a very big man’ could be described as a ‘giant’.

There are a number of weak adjectives that you can always remove or replace. If you learn to look out for these, you will become a better writer immediately.

Most of them are weak because they are too vague. If we delete the adjective and replace it with a more precise one, we will always produce better work.

I have included some words to replace the weak adjectives, but you can always search for more in a thesaurus. (Tip: Do not use words that you do not understand.)

Remember that the word you choose as a replacement will also depend on the context in which you are using the adjective.

15 Adjectives To Delete To Strengthen Your Writing Immediately

1. Happy:

Happy can mean anything from ‘content’ to ‘joyful’. Choose a stronger adjective.

Example: ‘Bella was happy’. could be ‘Bella was ecstatic.’

Other words to use: cheerful, contented, delighted, ecstatic, elated, glad, pleased, thrilled, joyful, jubilant

2. Sad:

How sad are you? Sad can be anything from slightly unhappy to miserable.

Example: ‘The widow was sad.’ could be ‘The widow was grief-stricken.’

Other words to use: broken-hearted, dejected, depressed, despondent, glum, grief-stricken, melancholic, miserable, sorrowful, unhappy, wretched

3. Good:

Good can mean ‘okay’, ‘great’, and even ‘the best.’ Choose an adjective that says exactly what you are trying to say. It also depends on which good you’re looking for: pleasant, moral, competent, reliable etc. Read more here.

Examples:

  1. ‘The dinner was good.’ could be ‘The dinner was superb.’
  2. ‘Matthew is a good man.’ could be ‘Matthew is a principled man.’

Other words to use: acceptable, ethical, excellent, first-rate, high-quality, marvellous, okay, pleasing, principled, satisfactory, superb, wonderful

4. Beautiful:

This is weak because it is subjective. What is beautiful or pretty for one person may not be the same for somebody else.

Example: ‘She was a beautiful woman.’ could be ‘She was a graceful woman.’ Graceful is more specific. Another tip would be to say ‘She looked like a young Audrey Hepburn.’

Other words to use: alluring, angelic, charming, classy, dazzling, delicate, elegant, exquisite, graceful, handsome, pretty, shapely statuesque

5. Cold:

This is one of the easiest adjectives to delete and replace. It is weak because it is measurable when referring to temperature. You can use modifiers like ‘slightly’, ‘a bit’, ‘very’, and ‘extremely’ when an adjective is measurable. But, it is better to say how cold it is.

Example: ‘It was a cold night.’ could be ‘It was glacial last night.’

Other words to use: chilly, cool, glacial, frosty, freezing, frigid, icy, polar, snowy, wintry

6. Hot:

This is another one of the easiest adjectives to delete and replace. It is weak because it is measurable when referring to temperature. You can use modifiers like ‘slightly’, ‘a bit’, ‘very’, and ‘extremely’ when an adjective is measurable. But, it is always better to say how hot it is.

Example: ‘It was a hot day.’ could be ‘It was a boiling hot day.’

Other words to use: balmy, blistering, boiling, humid, summery, sweltering, warm

7. Tired:

How tired is tired?

Example: ‘The professor looked tired.’ could be ‘The professor looked exhausted.’

Other words to use: drained, drooping, drowsy, exhausted, prostrate, sleepy

8. Nice:

Nice signifies nothing. It is a filler word that means very little other than something was not bad. Nice can mean anything from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘lovely’. It also depends on whether you are describing people, places, or things.  Read more here.

Example: ‘We had a nice dance.’ could be ‘We had a cordial dance.’

Other words to use: acceptable, charming, cordial, decent, enjoyable, great, lovely, pleasant, polite, proper, satisfactory, tolerable, wonderful

9. Little:

Little is a vague adjective. Because it is subjective, we should be more precise when we use it. Again, little has many meanings and we should use an adjective that relates to the meaning.

Example: ‘Look at the little child.’ could be ‘Look at the toddler.’ or ‘Look at the slight six-year-old.’

Other words to use: compact, diminutive, petite, short, small, slight, thin, tiny

10. Big:

This is one of the easiest adjectives to delete and replace. It is weak because it is measurable. We need to be more specific. Remember that the choice of adjectives for big differ when you are referring to people and things.

Examples:

  1. She was a big girl. could be ‘She was a hefty girl.’
  2. ‘It was a big decision.’ could be ‘It was a consequential decision.’

Other words to use: broad-shouldered, burly, consequential, considerable, gargantuan, gigantic, grown-up, hefty, huge, immense, massive, mammoth, oversized, overweight, significant

11. Bad:

Bad is too vague an adjective to use successfully. We should use more precise words when we use it. Bad can refer to something that is sub-standard, dreadful, harmful, naughty, wicked, or incompetent. When you choose your adjective replacement, bear this in mind so that you can be as specific as possible.

Examples:

  1. ‘She had a bad accident.’ could be ‘She had a life-threatening accident.’
  2. ‘He was a bad boy.’ could be ‘He was a naughty boy’.

Other words to use: adverse, difficult, dire, dreadful, harmful, grave, naughty, rebellious, severe, terrible, unhealthy, unpleasant, unwelcome

12. Tall:

This is one of the easiest adjectives to delete and replace. It is weak because it is measurable when referring to people and things. Just how tall is tall? If you want to be specific, you can even give the exact measurements.

Examples:

  1. ‘The tall building.’ could be ‘The sky-scraper.’
  2. ‘The girl was tall.’ could be ‘The girl was 1.8 metres.’

Other words to use: colossal, gangling, long-legged, sky-scraping, towering

13. Short:

This is one of the easiest adjectives to delete and replace. It is weak because it is measurable when referring to people and things. Just how short is short?

Examples:

  1. ‘The report was short.’ could be ‘The report was epigrammatic.’
  2. ‘The short man.’ could be ‘The dwarfish man. ‘ or ‘The 1.2 metre man.’

Other words to use: brief, concise, dwarfish, diminutive, dumpy, epigrammatic, Lilliputian, elfin, fleeting, petite, tiny, squat, stocky, synoptic

14. Young:

This adjective is weak because it is measurable when referring to people and things. It can also be subjective. What is young to a 40-year-old is different to what is young to a 70-year-old.

Example: ‘The young person arrived today.’ could be ‘The adolescent boy arrived today.’ or ‘The 16-year-old boy arrived today.’

Other words to use: adolescent, babyish, boyish, child-like, girlish, immature, juvenile, teenaged

15. Old:

This adjective is weak because it is measurable and visible when referring to people and things. It can also be subjective. What is old to a 20-year-old is different to what is young to a 40-year-old. You can always choose a better adjective.

Examples:

  1. ‘The old woman went shopping.’ could be ‘The ancient woman went shopping.’ or ‘The nonagenarian woman went shopping.’
  2. ‘He wore old clothes.’ could be ‘He wore threadbare clothes.’

Other words to use: aged, ancient, broken-down, dilapidated, elderly, mature, threadbare, tattered, septuagenarian, octogenarian, nonagenarian, centenarian

Exercise:

Find replacement adjectives for the following weak adjectives.

  1. Wide
  2. High
  3. Low
  4. Bright
  5. Dark

The Last Word

Remember that it is almost always better to use precise nouns and a strong verbs when you write, but it’s also acceptable to choose better adjectives. I hope you use this list of adjectives to delete to help you become a stronger writer.

If you are looking for more posts like this, read:

  1. 50 Verbs That Will Strengthen Your Writing Immediately
  2. 106 Ways To Describe Sounds
  3. 20 Words Used To Describe Specific Tastes And Flavours
  4. 209 Words To Describe Touch
  5. 75 Words That Describe Smells
  6. 204 Words That Describe Colours
  7. 155 Words To Describe An Author’s Tone
  8. 140 Words To Describe Mood In Fiction
  9. 350 Character Traits – A Fabulous Resource For Writers
  10. 60 Words To Describe Writing Or Speaking Styles

Top Tip: If you need help with your grammar, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook

 by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

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Top Tip: If you need help with your grammar, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook

This article has 2 comments

  1. Anne

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article. May I add a word of caution. When I first started to study the craft of fiction writing, I tried to obey each “rule” to the letter, until I learned the most valuable rule of all: it it is essential to know the “rules” before you break them. No rule is cast in stone: and this is the only rule that should never be broken.

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