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The War on Adjectives

In my class at Georgetown we've talked about excessive use of adjectives and adverbs. The beginning writer often sprays these things all over the text, as though good writing is necessarily adjectival. The adjectives often cause both ends of a sentence to sag under their weight, the whole enterprise supported in the middle by a single passive verb, an enfeebled "was" or "were".

Now I'm going to talk about a couple of my favorite writers, both of whom have just written about, would you believe, adjectives. My friend Michael Lewis in this recent column manages to spin an entire tale around the adjective "easygoing," which he believes is a preposterous description of his family. And meanwhile my former boss Gene Robinson, the Post's newest Op-Ed columnist, has written a great piece about the Grammys, and about our national obsession with labels, particularly the "red" and "blue" political dichotomy. Last week Gene wrote about Condi Rice, and again managed to find the real person amid all the adjectives.

I'm starting to think that the best adjective for adjectives in general is: bad.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 16, 2005; 8:16 AM ET
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