Adverbs & adjectives (WAS generally, what do you think of general ly)

Subject: Adverbs & adjectives (WAS generally, what do you think of general ly)
From: "Morris, Margaret K" <Margaret -dot- Morris -at- jhuapl -dot- edu>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 15:41:40 -0500

Mark Twain gave some advice about adjectives that I have found helpful in
technical writing and editing, even though I doubt that Twain had us
technical types in mind when he wrote:

"You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to
work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning
at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's
adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get
under the bed by and by."
--Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878


"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief
sentences. That is the way to write English--it is the modern way and the
best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.
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 wide apart. An adjective
habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is
as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
-- Letter to D. W. Bowser, 3/20/1880


"As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1884


Margaret Knox Morris, Technical Writer/Editor
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
11100 Johns Hopkins Road
Laurel, Maryland 20723
phone (240) 228-3239
fax (240) 228-6189
margaret -dot- morris -at- jhuapl -dot- edu

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