Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives and Adverbs

Although adjectives and adverbs are an indispensable parts of speech, they should not be substituted for strong, exact, and precise nouns or powerful, animated, and specific verbs. The English language is replete with nouns and verbs that do not need adjectives and adverbs to embellish the language. Certainly, adjectives and adverbs have their place in writing, but they should be used sparingly for maximum effect.

Nouns have several forms: singular and plural, compound, possessive, and gender. Most singular nouns form the plural by adding “s” but there are exceptions: some add “es”, others change the “y” to “i” before adding “es”, while still others change the ending entirely as in “phenomenon” that becomes “phenomena”.

Compound nouns are two words written as one, as two, or hyphenated. Examples are football, pine tree, and father-in-law.

Possessive nouns are usually written with an apostrophe “S”, but plurals ending in “s” have only an apostrophe added.

Nouns often indicate gender with a different word such as “actor” and “actress” although today usually one word is used for both genders.

As well, nouns belong to several classes: proper, nouns, concrete, abstract, collective, mass, and count. Proper nouns are the name of a particular person, place, or thing and always have a capital letter while common nouns indicate a general person, place, or thing and are written in lower case letters.

Concrete nouns name objects that can be seen or touched; abstract nouns name qualities, actions, or ideas that are perceived mentally. Collective nouns name groupings of individuals, but mass nouns mass not defined as individual units. Finally, we have count nouns that name things perceived as individual units such as “car,” “shelf,” or “pencil.”

An exact, precise noun does not need a supporting adjective; it provided the picture on its own. This is where the concrete noun rather than the abstract shines although abstract nouns are needed to indicate qualities, actions, or ideas, but they must be chosen with care and precision.

Similarly, with verbs, the choice of an exact verb in the correct tense is important for strong writing. Many writers have no trouble with the present tense or future, but the past and the past perfect do cause trouble. For immediacy in writing avoid the frequent use of the past perfect. Usually the simple past can be substituted to make for more powerful writing. Verbs are probably the most difficult words to choose for a variety or reasons; one, of course, is the tendency to convert nouns into verbs. Like the noun, an exact verb does not need a supporting adverb to express ideas adequately.

So the best advice it to edit writing so that it is mostly nouns and verbs and uses adjectives and adverbs sparingly.

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