by Lisa Sledge
In a letter to a student, Mark Twain gave the following advice:
“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
I have an adjective habit. This week as I write, my goal is to strengthen my writing by removing adjective clumps and thinning out flowery language.
What are your writing vices and what strategies do you employ to fix them?