Toward the end of my day, I dropped by Facebook to see what my favorite people were doing. My youngest daughter, who is in college, had left a message that said, "Stacy just ate some noms." Now, my tired eyes read "Stacy just ate some nouns." Which isn't nearly as strange as my reaction. I was so proud of her!
Like any good mother, I spent 18 years prompting each of my children to eat healthfully and to stay away from adverbs. You see, nouns and verbs are like protein and vegetables--they are healthy for your writing. But if you drench your verbs in flavor-enhancers like helping verbs and adverbs, you add a bunch of unnecessary fat that hides the unique flavor of those healthy vegetables. If you include clichés and unnecessary words (like "that"), it's the same as wrapping the lean meat of your prose in bread crumbs and dropping it into a deep fryer. Strong prose is created by using strong nouns and strong verbs. Adjectives are seasoning and should be lightly sprinkled, never globbed on or stacked three-high. And adverbs are Little Debbies--they can add unhealthy weight very quickly. You can't afford to eat them regularly.
If you're going to write strong, healthy prose, you've got to put your words on a diet and eliminate all the fat. And, once you have it nice and lean, you can build some muscle and curves by adding in details that matter.
Our Summer 2008 Newsletter has a two-page feature article called "Drop and Give Me Fifty--Creating Strong Prose Without the Flab." Feel free to download it (it's a PDF). Or, if you want one of our editors to serve as your personal trainer and help you strengthen you're writing, we do that.
Just as your body is built one bite at a time, your writing is built one word at a time.
Now, go munch on some verbs.