Monday, July 9, 2012

Anti-Adverbs, Twain and Salt

I saw this quote from Mark Twain the other day:

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

This may not mean a lot to you but if you're editing a manuscript, it begins to make sense.  A rule of editing / writing / revising is get rid of as many adverbs and adjectives as possible with the intention of empowering your nouns and verbs. (And replacing them with better ones if need be.)

In my opinion, this rule helps transform this:

 I walked carefully to the doorway and quietly pushed the tall, brown, wooden, heavy door.  It surprised me when it made a loud, high-pitched, earsplitting noise while it opened and let everyone know where I was. 

into something more like this:

I crept over and eased against the great oak door.  As it gave way, its rusted hinges shrieked angrily, betraying my position.

I didn't entirely eliminate adverbs or adjectives from second example... after all, Adverbs / Adjectives are like bath salts;  They aren't evil... Sometimes they're just used the wrong way.


  1. I've very often referred to Mark Twain as "THE genius of letters", but I underrated him every time I said that. In truth, Twain was "THE genius of geniuses."

    College is for people not born with the talent of a Mark Twain.
    ~ Anonymous

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Agreed, sir. If I only read quotes by Mark Twain it would be enough.