Defending the Indefensible: Adjectives

My Blog Gate post of the week is up, this one expressing the heretical opinion that adjectives and adverbs are good things.

People who don’t have BG on their feed anymore (possibly to avoid the voxes, the little voxes that spoil the vines) might want to know about the conversation developing over whether people read sf/f anymore. (David Soyka poses the question; Judith Berman has a useful response.)

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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11 Responses to Defending the Indefensible: Adjectives

  1. scbutler says:

    I’m with you on the modifiers. Can’t tell you how many times I used to rail against the adverb police over on the Online Writers Workshop. Even worse than the passive voice police.

    I don’t necessarily blame Strunk and White, though. It’s like the bible and fundamentalists. The grammar fundamentalists take what S&W say far too literally.

    • marycatelli says:

      passive voice police are worse

      At least I’ve never had complaints about an adjective that wasn’t in fact an adjective.

      I think that for joining the passive voice police, inability to tell the difference between passive and progressive is a requirement.

      • scbutler says:

        Re: passive voice police are worse

        De rigeur, in fact.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: passive voice police are worse

        I think Word owes the world an apology for that one.

        –Jeff Stehman

        • newguydave says:

          Re: passive voice police are worse

          Word is the bane of my existence.

          • JE says:

            Re: passive voice police are worse

            I guess these guys may have separate obsessions but I just lump them together in one group. The guys who think “–ing” forms are passive are indeed maddening, but equally nutty to me are the ones you proscribe the use of adverbs while using adverbs. It’s that combination of cluelessness with a self-assumed mantle of authority–drives me nuts.

            And, Sam, I do sort of blame Strunk, or at least trace it back to Strunk, because of the form of his original caution: “In general, however, it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.” First, I think this is wrong on the evidence: in a sentence with a linking verb, the predicate adjective is often where the action is. But, more importantly, there’s the unfortunate emphasis on toughness. I don’t know what it is, but the whole issue of strength vs. weakness tends to make these over-sensitized but under-informed readers somewhat squeaky. (Someone who objects to the progressive construction, for instance, will usually take refuge in the charge that is is “weak.”)

            But I seem to be getting a little squeaky myself, so maybe I should go lie down somewhere. Strunk does have a lot of useful advice.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Judith Berman has a useful response.

    Ah, the beauty of langauge. What isn’t said sometimes has more oomph than what is. 🙂

    –Jeff Stehman

    • JE says:

      And I thought I was being so sneaky!

      Of course, there’s no point to being sneaky if no one notices, so…

      • Anonymous says:

        Pride and sneaking do not make good bedfellows. One is always hogging the covers, while the other has perpetually cold feet. It’s best to allow yourself nothing more than an inner smile at your own sneakiness and move on. (External smiles can cause a little pop as the lips part, and little pops do not a healthy sneak make.)

        –Jeff Stehman

  3. newguydave says:

    Nice post. What’s next the passive police? How about a little write up on the use of dreams and flashbacks in fiction. How people rail on them, but they work. lol

    • JE says:

      Mary (see above) might be the masked avenger who’s best suited to tackle the passive police.

      I almost wrote a piece on foreshadowing, which has been a lot on my mind lately. Maybe that’ll show up next week. But usually I decide what ‘m going to blog about when I’m halfway though a post…

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