Adjectives, Adverbs and Albatrosses: Cleaning Up Your Copy

Share This

If you’re too close to a topic, it can be easy to lose perspective and heap on glowing adjectives and adverbs when writing what should be a straightforward article. Editors frequently receive press releases that are peppered with words like “beautiful,” “exciting” and “outstanding,” effusive words that can drag an article down like an albatross. Overly emotive words and phrases usually mean that you are either fawning over someone else or yourself. Pat yourself on the back in a blog post; don’t do it in an article or press release unless you’re using the words in a quote.

You could just eliminate all adjectives from your company’s articles in order to curb a rah-rah attitude, but it would be easier to simply utilize an editing service. Not only would you avoid gushing, you would also benefit from the quality services of experienced, vetted editors who are well-versed at cleaning up copy. By starting with your own text, you’d retain the essence of your message and its tone while ensuring that the content would be professional and crisp with a good flow, and free of unnecessary descriptive words.

“Adjectives can be great in writing IF THEY’RE USED SPARINGLY,” British author Rod Glenn writes in a blog post. Glenn also points out that many verb-adverb combinations can be easily replaced with a more evocative verb. For example, replacing “Peter fell down the hillside quickly” with “Peter careened down the hillside” is an effective change. The second sentence is stronger and incorporates the “show, don’t tell” approach, providing greater imagery than the more obvious first sentence.

It can be difficult to edit your own writing, especially when you feel strongly about the content. An editor can take a step back from the work and judge it objectively, while the writer is much less likely to be able to stay objective. The editor, as an outside observer, can approach the work as a reader might, and will make sure your article doesn’t describe anything as “amazing,” a word that topped the 2012 List of Banished Words by Lake Superior State University (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.). The list also included other overused or annoying phrases such as “man cave,” “the new normal” “win the future,” “ginormous” and “thank you in advance.”

An editing service can help you generate strong, clear copy and give you more time to focus on the text itself.

Laurie S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

Get tips, tricks, tactics, and advice in your inbox each week

    Join our FREE on-demand content strategy masterclass
    Connect with expert writers to scale your content marketing