Modifier Monday: The Worst Modifiers

“Worst” is not a great modifier, incidentally. Not particularly descriptive. In this context, I’d replace it with “weakest.”

A modifier is “a word (such as an adjective or adverb) or phrase that describes another word or group of words” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Modifiers come in varying degrees of descriptiveness, and some of the least descriptive modifiers are generally discouraged in writing, mainly due to the fact that they are considered a waste of space. Examples of weak modifiers are interesting, very, and really.

“the book is interesting” vs. “The book offers an accurate and educational view of Victorian Europe”

“I’m very tired” vs. “I’m exhausted”

“He had a really bad sunburn” vs. “His sunburn was so bad that he could hardly move for three days without causing severe pain”

See how in the three sentences with weak modifiers, you don’t really learn anything about the subject of the sentence? In your own writing, as you are revising your first draft it can be helpful to weed out your weak modifiers and try to replace them with something a little more descriptive. This is one of the more fun parts of writing, and it’s where a thesaurus can come in handy.

What are some of your favorite modifiers?


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