Adjectives May Diminish the Impact of Your Nouns

Likewise, adjectives often diminish the power of the nouns they modify. Sometimes the modifying words or phrases distract the reader by adding unnecessary information. For example, which of these two sentences is stronger?

The hotel's computerized fire alarm system will be tested on Tuesday.

The hotel's fire alarm system will be tested on Tuesday.

The fact that the system is "computerized" may be relevant in some contexts (in an application to win an insurance reduction because of updated equipment, for instance), but to employees or guests it's probably irrelevant. It may also be confusing. What has the fact that it's computerized got to do with the fact that it will be tested on Tuesday? It's more concise to eliminate it.

Sometimes the adjective is redundant, as in this example:

The memo provides helpful suggestions about maximizing your new computer's capabilities.

What other kind of suggestions would you publish in a memo? Other adjective alternatives beg the same question: Are they useful suggestions? One hopes so. Relevant suggestions? They ought to be. Valuable suggestions? Good, but as with "helpful," why would you publish them if they weren't valuable? Better to let the noun do the work:

The memo provides suggestions about maximizing your new computer's capabilities.

Use adjectives when they're necessary to impart correct information, and avoid them when they don't. When you use adjectives, be sure to choose words that accurately express your meaning. For example, consider these two sentences:

Mary was very happy to receive a promotion.

Mary was thrilled to receive a promotion.

Thrilled means "very happy" and is a more exact and interesting choice. Words such as very and good are weak and can almost always be replaced by a more precise and engaging term.

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