Category Archives: Useless Adjective Thursday

Useless Status Update Thursday

I almost didn’t write this because I’d rather see a useless Facebook status update from someone I like than no update at all. And I am certainly guilty of posting useless updates from time to time (all the time). But griping about useless status updates is a hobby of mine. I can’t resist writing about them on Useless Adjective Thursday.

8 Useless Updates, in no particular order

Darlene… is waiting on Tim : I wonder if “waiting on” is even legitimate grammar. She doesn’t mean she’s a waitress and she’s serving dinner to Tim. She means she’s sitting in her car waiting FOR Tim. Also, this is possibly the most boring status update ever, because she’s bored, which makes us bored.

Billy Bob… is glad it’s Friday! (see also: thank God it’s Friday, I’m so glad it’s Friday, it is finally Friday, only one more day until Friday, and only two more days until Friday) : While TGIF status updates are not useless in and of themselves, they are overused — grossly — and therefore their meaning is diluted, rendering them useless.

Jeannie… has a case of the Mondays! (see also: I wish it were Friday, I can’t believe it’s already Monday, I hate Mondays, and why can’t it be Friday?) : Diluted. See above.

Lisa… Wow! It is a beautiful day! : Weather-related status updates are not necessarily useless. But “beautiful” weather could be anything. Give me a visual, people. I like picturing my various friends in various locations enjoying various climates. But one man’s beautiful is another man’s… not beautiful. Throw us a bone.

Jim… is tired (see also: exhausted, sleepy, and needs a nap) : Boring.

Any and every update with “AI” (American Idol) in the text.

Sara… needs coffee (see also: is drinking coffee, loves coffee, wants more coffee, can’t wait to have coffee, mmm coffee)  Alert: writing about coffee and your need for it is overused and flirts with useless.

Any and every update with Yum! appended to it. : Unnecessary. I assume your food is “Yummy!” or you wouldn’t be bothering to update your status with a description of it.

Juno… is relaxed (see also: is relaxing, is chillin’, and my least favorite: is chillaxin’) : I need more (and eliminate chillaxin’ altogether, please). Are you relaxing while watching Rescue Me with a glass of wine? Are you relaxing while sitting on your back porch shooting rats as they run along your fence? Give me something I can sink my teeth into here.

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Useless Adjective Thursday: A Fun Use of a Boring Adverb

Last night, I was finishing Brave New World and came upon this sentence:

“Nice tame animals, anyhow,” the Controller murmured parenthetically. “Why don’t you let them see Othello instead?”

I love this unexpected use of an adverb that would normally put one to sleep. (Parenthetically is frequently used in this context: “Page references are cited parenthetically in the text.” Zzzzzzzzzz.)

The author of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, loved parenthetically so much that he used it twice within a few pages. The second reference was less entertaining, but still fun:

“There was a man called Cardinal Newman,” he said. “A cardinal,” he exclaimed parenthetically, “was a kind of Arch-Community-Songster.”

For the record, Brave New World doesn’t have a place on my “read it again” shelf. I acknowledge the brilliance and eeriness of Huxley’s predictions for our future, but I wasn’t too engaged in the story, for whatever reason.

Overused Modifier Thursday

painfully thin

Stephen King used this descriptor in The Green Mile, which I read this week. I was all, “Really? Painfully thin? Are you sure?” But I imagine that someone who has written as many millions of words as King has must run out of modifiers at some point.

Interestingly, he followed painfully thin with a less-cliched description that could’ve replaced it altogether, something like, “He was painfully thin, as if recovering from a long illness.” I have to admit I forgave his placement of the overused modifier upon reading the long illness part.

Useful Adjective Thursday

Bright

For this week, I changed the title to UseFUL Adjective Thursday because I wanted to bring a more positive vibe. It’s not in my nature to be positive, so this won’t last.

An adjective I enjoy is bright. I don’t mean “I saw a bright light.” Not terribly interesting. I mean, “The cilantro adds a brightness to the salsa” or “She felt a bright pain in her knee as she knelt on the bed of nails.”

What do you think? Fresh descriptor? Or just another useless adjective?

Useless Adjective Thursday

Last weekend, I read an amateurish book called The Russian Concubine. Oddly, there were no Russian concubines in the book. We had Russians. We had a couple cameos of Chinese concubines. But no Russian concubines. I don’t even know who was supposed to be the Russian concubine.

On top of that, the author used cliches like “Old Chap” and “gray around the gills” as often as she used “the” and “he.” So of course I turned to this book to find a useless adjective; I knew the hunt would be short.

The word that stood out after a couple of minutes of page flipping: beautiful. What did the candlesticks look like? They were beautiful. The mother? Beautiful. The dress? Beautiful.

As with other useless adjectives, beautiful says nothing about the object, person, or scene except that it is nice to look at. But we don’t know why it is nice to look at. The lazy author has cheated us out of an image. And in the case of The Russian Not-a-Concubine, the author has also cheated me out of 3 days of my life.

Useless Adjective Thursday

Particular

I chose particular as this week’s useless adjective because I noticed that in my technical writing, I was using “particular,” “specific,” and “certain” where such words were arguably extraneous. For example, “You can open certain ports on particular servers.” I could just as effectively say, “You can open ports on your server.” Is the meaning the same? Maybe not; I meant that only some ports could be opened on some servers. But the context of the sentence should make that clear. If it doesn’t, I should work on the context.

After I selected this potentially useless adjective, the first blog post I read contained particular. I won’t link to it because I only read that (particular) blog to see how many people the author has offended today. She wrote, “I really enjoy this particular group of mothers.” At first, I thought particular was called for. But upon further thought, I think the sentence is fine without it: “I really enjoy this group of mothers.” With particular she may be trying to single out this group, to say that she likes them more than other groups of mothers. But she could go on to explain why this group appeals to her compared to another group, if that was her point. (And she does, actually.)

Am I being particularly picky about particular? Are there cases when it’s a useful adjective?

Useless Adjective Thursday

Lately, I have been trying to avoid cliches, pare down useless adjectives, and eliminate over-explaining in my writing. Sometimes we think that more letters on the page are proof of more work accomplished, or we think our readers won’t understand what we mean unless we are painfully explicit. But really, good ideas just drown when tossed in with too many words.

As for useless adjectives, one that bugs me (perhaps irrationally) is “local.” I often feel like “local” is implied, rendering this adjective unnecessary. If you went to the grocery store today, won’t I assume it was a local grocery store? And if it weren’t local, wouldn’t you have said something like, “I drove 20 miles to check out the new grocery store in San Mateo today”? Local farmer’s market, local coffee shop … Let’s make a pact not to use “local” anymore.

What other adjectives are extraneous, yet so often used? I am going to keep my ears open this week. Wait on the edge of your seat until the next Useless Adjective Thursday – and in the meantime, stop modifying your nouns with “local.”