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Part 9: Word Choice

Why Show, Don't Tell Advice Might Be Holding You Back

Part 2: Why Show, Don't Tell Advice Might Be Holding You Back Series - The Writer's Cabin

Level 6: The Tchotchkes of Show, Don't Tell—Word Choice

Part 9! We have finally arrived at the end of our series on how to really think about the advice "Show Don't Tell."

Funnily enough, the advice given at this stage is some of the most popular I have heard. And considering all the stuff we have covered so far, it is no wonder why writers struggle to get show don't tell right if they are entering this late in the game.

Today we are talking about word choice. This is really shallow level stuff at this point, and the tips I give will do little to fix a story with poor imagery. But it will work wonders to take a book with strong imagery across the finish line.

The most common writing advice I hear on the regular (though that is a tough competition) is avoid adverbs - minimize adjectives.

It's not bad advice actually, but there is a bit more to it than that.

Let's jump right into it.

Show Don't Tell: Why Adverbs and Adjectives Aren't Strong Writing.

I'm going to ask and answer two simple questions. And hopefully, you will see why adjectives and adverbs are not always good writing.

What is an adjective?

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun.

What is an adverb?

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

Notice in both of these definitions is the word "modifies." Meaning that they are words added to other words to specify the meaning of them.

We also call these Qualifiers—words that attribute qualities to other words or phrases.

It boils down to this:

Qualifiers are not good writing because it often means you are a lazy writer.

Perhaps that sounds harsh, but it is true.

Words are incredible. One of my favorite things about words is that there are so many of them. If you have anything to say, I guarantee there is a single word for it.

When you start resorting to too many adjectives and adverbs, it means that you have not taken the time to find the right word. It means that you have become lazy in your writing.

Let's look at some examples of lazy writing and ways we can fix them.


"He ran fast for the car."

Or the equally bad...

"He quickly ran for the car."