We’ve discussed the importance of Nouns and Verbs, now it’s time to talk about the Adjective.
Adjectives describe, limit and otherwise qualify nouns and pronouns. They are “picture words”. They enhance the detail of a sentence. If a strong, direct verb lays a proper foundation for a sentence, then a creative and well-targeted adjective gives that sentence a special finish or polish that will set it apart.
There are two main types of adjectives, descriptive and limiting.
Descriptive Adjectives add detail when creating a picture, expanding the meaning of a sentence and helping to set a mood. Consider the differences in the following sentences (the adjectives are in italics):
Investors are questioning the latest proposal from the new Internet provider.
Skeptical and angry investors are questioning the latest proposal from the fledgling Internet provider.
Which sentence tells you more and paints a fuller picture?
A careful writer uses their adjectives carefully. Their concern is more with content than flashiness. For example, when writing the first sentence in the example, a writer might want to use a stronger description of the Internet provider. Going to their thesaurus, they’ll discover a whole plethora of words to replace ‘new’: novel, new-fangled, original, fresh, or innovative. The word fledgling, however, shows that the Internet provider is inexperienced, untried, and untested. This creates a clearer image of the subject.
Limiting Adjectives set boundaries and qualifies meaning. Let’s look at some examples:
The lost kayakers had to paddle 10 kilometres to find help.
The number ‘10’ gives us a specific idea of how far they had to paddle.
“This setback cost us the account,” the CEO said.
Here the adjective limits, or focuses, the meaning of the sentence. The CEO is referring to one specific setback.
Does she know any way to get to the hotel?
Although the boundaries set here in specifying ways are very broad, ‘any’ is seen as a limiting adjective because it provides no description or other helpful context.
While adjectives are important, they can also be overused and misapplied. Given their many nuances, adjectives challenge the writer to be on target with meanings.