(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“The adjective is the enemy of the noun.” Arthur Brisband

“Adjectives are frequently the greatest enemies of the substantives.” Voltaire

“The adjective has come to have a somewhat unsavory reputation, then, not because there is anything inherently bad about it, but because it is the one part of speech first seized upon and worked to death by novices and inferior writers.” J.I. Rodale

“The adjective has not been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place. This is not to disparage adjectives and adverbs; they are indispensable parts of speech. . . . In general, however, it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.” E.B. White

“The simple adjective is almost always preferable to the unusual adjective.” J.I. Rodale

“[Ezra was] . . . the man who had taught me to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.” Ernest Hemingway

“The alchemy of adjectives: boiling down an excess of ideas to the essence of a thing, with words that surprise.” Constance Hale

“Most adjectives are also unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun.” William Zinsser

“Make your adjectives do work that needs to be done.” William Zinsser

“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable!” Mark Twain