Tips to Improve Story Description When Using Adjectives

image by narciso1

Writers want readers to picture the multiple-faceted things in their stories. Try these tips on when to use adjectives and how many in an adjective string.

Evaluate the Need for Adjectives


  1. First, decide whether the object is worth highlighting.
  • Is it something you want the reader to picture and then move on?
  • Or does it need description to create a better visual for the setting?
  • Or is it important to the scene’s purpose?


* Cara opened the door and bustled her bags inside.

No adjectives moves the story along.


image by Prawny

* Cara opened the front door and bustled her grocery bags inside.

Perhaps the sentence is in a scene’s opening paragraph. The reader learns Cara enters the front of the house and she’s been to the grocery store.


* Cara opened the door and bustled her suitcases inside.

Use specific nouns when possible. Suitcases works without using adjectives, such as in traveling bags.


* Cara opened the men’s bathroom door and peeked inside.

If men’s was omitted, the reader would miss important information.


Do objects need more than one adjective?


  1. Two adjectives adjacent to the object (noun) separated by a comma can cause the reader to stop at the second adjective and reevaluate his image. His re-evaluation becomes cumbersome with a string of adjectives. Usually, one adjective works best.


* Cara opened the tall, massive door and hustled the inexpensive, jute gunny sack inside.

Pick one adjective for the door. Above, the reader imagines a tall door then stops to put heft on the door. To me, massive is the better descriptor. If tall is important, include tall in another sentence: The woman tossed the sack to Jack and closed the tall door.

The definition of a gunny sack is an inexpensive bag made of burlap formed from jute, hemp, or other natural fibers. Inexpensive is unnecessary. Jute may not be needed either.


* Cara opened the massive door and hustled the gunny sack inside.

This flows well and gives the reader good images.


Here’s another example. I’ll improve it by inserting and removing adjectives.


Andy slouched in in his overstuffed, gray, faux-leather chair and wiped beads from his lip. Little moving air reached him from the cracked-open, sash window or the sweeping, blue fan in the left corner. What could he do to escape the heat?



Andy slouched in his faux-leather armchair and wiped sweat beads from his upper lip. Little breeze reached him from the cracked-open window or the sweeping fan in the corner. What could he do to escape the heat?

The paragraph is about how hot Andy is. I’ve edited the paragraph to focus on heat.

I added sweat to identify the beads and upper to dash the image of beads on his lower lip. I chose faux-leather from the adjectives describing his chair. The reader may imagine skin sticking to faux-leather in the heat.

I changed the noun, chair, to armchair to improve the image without using an adjective. I replaced moving air with the noun breeze to avoid another adjective-noun combination. I selected sweeping over blue for the fan because sweeping creates movement. I removed sash because it’s not important and slows the sentence. Likewise, I removed left.

Try these suggestions on using adjectives to improve your paragraphs. Click to tweet.

What might be an instance when two adjectives separated by a comma are needed?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Hyperbole in Description Piques Interest As High As Pike’s Peak

image by isabellaquintana
image by isabellaquintana

Definition of Hyperbole

Combining my research: Figurative language technique with visual impact that deliberately uses an extreme, fanciful, humorous, or ridiculous exaggeration (possibly applies a simile or metaphor) that makes a point about a real circumstance.

Common Examples of Hyperbole

  • Grandma is as old as Methuselah.
  • I’m dying to go.
  • I’ve told you a million times I don’t like mushrooms.
  • That’s the biggest cake of all time.
  • The cleanup took forever.
  • I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

Fresh and Humorous Hyperbole

image by pgbsimon
image by pgbsimon

“I’d bungled everything. The planet didn’t produce enough Grecian Formula to stop this church youth director from turning prematurely gray. If I begged, would the senior pastor assign me to an easier job? Maybe I could singlehandedly build the new Family Life Center.”

  1. “At my wits end” wouldn’t produce a mind picture. The hyperbole describing the youth director at risk of prematurely turning gray does.
  2. The second use of hyperbole in which he wishes he could exchange his position for the job of constructing the Family Life Center, provides images of the young man alone, riveting steel, laying bricks, and putting up drywall.
  3. Through hyperbole, the youth director shows and makes the point that his job is extremely stressful and difficult.

Spend Time to Develop Hyperbole

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

“Maybe it was time to visit the unemployment office. What would I say when asked for my qualifications? I could share that, behind my back, the senior churchwomen, affectionately called me the youth director from Mars. I’d heard the Granny Girls had considered Venus, but that planet was too close. They’d awarded me the Mars moniker after I forgot to power up Miss Lily’s windows before unleashing the teens to hose down her Lincoln Town Car at the annual car wash. If that qualification failed to beguile an unemployment rep, maybe the Saturday night lock-in I’d arranged in the gym would. Cleverly, I’d planned the night to redeem myself after my car wash debacle. I stationed adult volunteers at the doors from the basement to the attic fan. Then at four in the morning, the senior pastor called. The police had arrested three of our teens wading in the town’s fountain, singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Who knew I’d need to enlist a hundred watchdogs to guard the windows. I counted my blessings, though. The Granny Girls hadn’t upped my home planet to Pluto.”

image by KERBSTONE
image by KERBSTONE

Examples of Hyperbole:

  • Time to visit the unemployment office.
  • Youth director from Mars.
  • Unleashing the teens
  • From the basement to the attic fan.
  • Enlist a hundred watchdogs.
  • Upped my home planet to Pluto.

Try adding hyperbole to give story description a fun facelift. Click to tweet.

How have you used hyperbole in your writing?