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Those Much Maligned Modifiers
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British crime writer John Baker's online archive alerted me to this brilliant essay, A Cool, Dark Guinness and Something About Adverbs, in which Alex Keegan takes a realistic look at the way writers use those much maligned modifiers.
There is no doubt that beginner (and often intermediate) writing contains too many adjectives, too many adverbs, and most cringe-makingly, too many speech tags. The argument goes, from those now-famous authors (and not-so-famous creative writing teachers) that the reason we have to use an adjective to modify a noun, or an adverb after a verb is because we didn't choose the best noun or the best verb. They are "weak."

I would, simplistically go along with that, but let me ask you this. Would you rather drink a cold, dark pint of Guinness or a Guinness? And would you rather make slow, delicious love or have a quickie?

There are times when adjectives or adverbs work, there are times when they just look bolted on the side of the story. The question is: how do you know when to modify, when to be bald and bold?

The article is an excellent antidote to the usual simplistic advice concerning one of writing's unavoidable problems.

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