Writing Prompt: No Adjectives

Written by Emily Harstone | December 19, 2013

“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 far apart.” Mark Twain

An adjective is a describing word. In general, its purpose is to modify the word following it. Good, more, better, old, far, most: These are all examples of common adjectives.

A lot of writers depend on adjectives far more than they mean to. We often use them when talking without even noticing them. They easily slip into our writing. We modify words that don’t require modifying.

This exercise forbids the use of adjectives. You cannot use any while writing it, and afterwards you should edit it again, just to make sure that there are no adjectives. A few days later read it over. It should be refreshing to read a piece of writing that contains no adjectives.

You should try to give yourself ten to fifteen minutes to complete this exercise. You can write about anything you want to while doing this exercise, but it is easiest to execute if you have a narrative structure to follow. You can also try editing all of the adjectives out of a  piece of writing that you previously completed. It could really change an existing piece.