If you want to improve your writing, here's an exercise. Take anything you've written in the last month or two and go through it, highlighting every adjective and adverb you can find. Then, delete them. All of them. Now re-read your writing and see if it's an improvement. If you find yourself wanting to put some of them back, push yourself to justify why you really need them. And the answer shouldn't be that it just sounds better that way.
This advice actually came from book on writing fiction, but I think it works for most kinds of writing. During editing, see if you can get rid of as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. While you may have to make adjustments to maintain the meaning you intended, communicating the same information with as few modifiers as possible will make your copy stronger.
Here's why. Every adjectives and adverb is a shortcut that, even though it makes the writing easier, it can have different meanings to different people. If a writer describes a period of time as a "long" time, you might interpret that to mean six months, while someone else might think it means five years. However, if that writer had described it as "five years," there would be no disagreement.
Here's an example:
You might see this in a memo or email introducing new policies within a corporation. All of the adjectives and adverbs are highlighted. Now let's take a look with all of them deleted.
While not perfect, this sounds stronger and more confident than the first version. However, some of those adjectives and adverbs did convey meaning that needs to be worked back in. There are also a few places where this exercise has revealed opportunities to clarify the message. Analyzing the first passage, we find:
Here's how my final rewrite would look:
Try it on your next piece of writing, even if it's an email or an internal memo. The result will be writing that makes you appear to be stronger and more confident.
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