You’ve been missing all those grammar rants from the Grumpy, Grouchy Wielder of the Red Pen, haven’t you? Okay, have a rant — now with more snark and sarcasm! 🙂
My resolution to keep my nose out of Real Writers’ business in matters of grammar and punctuation lasted… less than a week. I promise I’ll try again (and again, and again, until it finally sticks), but first, this:
Back during the summer, I think, I saw a few blog posts for some challenge or another about writing without using adjectives. Supposedly adjectives are bad because they’re always just the writer’s opinion. I saw several attempts the bloggers themselves thought had met the challenge requirements perfectly.
Perhaps the reason for this is a lack of understanding what an adjective is.
So, yeah, I’m gonna tell you, because that’s what I do: stick my nose in things that are none of my business and pretend I know what the hell I’m talking about (which, obviously, I don’t, because if I knew a damn thing about grammar, I’d be a novelist instead of an editor, right?).
An adjective is any word that modifies (describes) a noun or pronoun. It’s that simple. I do not believe it is possible to write a grammatically correct, complete story (no, for fuck’s sake, those stupid “6-word memoirs” don’t count) without using at least a few adjectives. (I don’t think it can be done without adverbs, either, as well you know if you’ve been reading my blog for long.)
When I first learned of this challenge, I’d hoped that its creator was trying to make a point of some kind. That’s what I’d do, after all. If it were me, I’d challenge writers to come up with just one paragraph (okay, I’d say Write 150 words instead of Write one paragraph, because I like to make people think — it’s just this personality flaw I have) without using any adjectives. Then I’d look at the challenge entries and see all the adjectives that people didn’t even realize they were using, and I’d use that as the basis for a blog post about what adjectives are and how they’re, y’know, often necessary.
Not that I’m going to do that, of course, because I don’t know a damn thing about parts of speech — or at least, I don’t know how such things are done now that Grammar Don’t Matter ™. Same difference. I’m stuck back in the Dark Ages when writers still thought using a comma to separate a direct address from the rest of a line of dialogue was a good thing.
(I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t know if I intend this as sarcasm or not.)
Anyway. My opinion (as wrong as it is) is that adjectives are not automatically the writer expressing an opinion, no matter what journalism students are told. (Also, why should fiction follow the same standards as journalism? “Just the facts, ma’am” makes for damn boring fiction.) Example: If I describe Doodle as a black cat, black is a factual description of the color of his fur; it’s not my goddamn opinion. Were I writing a Serious Journalism Piece about cats in general and Doodle in particular, it would not be inappropriate for me to use such adjectives. In fact, it would probably be a requirement.
(Here I insert a photo of a kitty to make this blog post seem less harsh…)
If I were qualified — at least as a reader — to have an opinion about The Absolute Rules of Writing ™ (which somehow manage to coexist with Grammer Don’t Matter ™, possibly because the Rules say that grammar is irrelevant as long as you’re expressing the same most-uniquest ideas as the rest of the class), I’d say, “Don’t be a parrot. Think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Don’t insist on eliminating any part of speech from writing on someone else’s say-so.” Think of all the things we wouldn’t be able to write about anymore if we had no adjectives.
Also, as always, I dare anyone who truly believes that adjectives (or adverbs) should never be used to prove it can be done — prove it for real — before expecting anyone else to do it. Write a story without using any modifiers. Or stop this nonsense.