A reasoned defense of the adjective

In the current issue of The Chronicle, Ben Yagoda contemplates writerly disdain for the adjective:

That it is good to avoid them is one of the few points on which the sages of writing agree. Thus Voltaire: “The adjective is the enemy of the noun, though it agrees with it in number and gender.” Thus Twain: “When you catch an adjective, kill it.” And thus William Zinsser: “Most adjectives are … unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun.”

While conceding that overuse is a problem, Yagoda decries “the defamation of an entire part of speech.”


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