Can Too Many Words Spoil Communication?

“No adjectives!” cried Geoffrey, the author, “No effing adjectives?  Who says?”

“It’s company policy.” replied Colin, the executive from his publishers as he handed back the annotated manuscript.

“Well, what stupid, blinkered, unimaginative, idiotic, moronic old fool came up with that one?”

“You’ve just used six adjectives, most of which were unnecessary.  They were synonyms, or nearly.  There was no need for the expletive in your previous remark, either.  You see how wasteful you are with words?”

“So is this an efficiency drive?”

“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.  To answer your question, the policy came down from the top.  The senior partner, Mr. Roget, has recently stated the policy unequivocally and categorically.  By the way he’s not old.  He’s only in his forties, although they say his mental age has always been greater than his chronological age.”

“You’ve just used two adjectives.  You said ‘mental’ and ‘chronological’ and they’re near-synonyms.   What about adverbs?”

“They’re banned too.  Most of them are unnecessary.”

“You use them.  You just said ‘unequivocally’ and ‘categorically’ which are also near-synonyms.  And ‘unnecessary’ is an adverb too.  You’re as bad as I am!  Anyway, repetition is often used for emphasis.  We all do it in speech.  Why not in print?  I’ll bet a lot of famous writers would never get published if your Mr. Roget had his way.  What about titles?  Do you allow adjectives and adverbs in them?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think we encourage them.” Said Colin as he looked nervously at the list of new titles he was holding.

“I suppose you would have published the Curiosity Shop!

“If you’re going to be like that, I suppose it ought to be just the Shop.”

“Like the Girl with the Earring, or is that the Girl with the Ring?”

“Now you’re being silly and pedantic.”

“That’s good, coming from you!  What about the Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and Hardy’s Far from the Crowd?  Would you have told Louisa May Alcott to call her books Women and Men, not to be confused with the Man by H.G. Wells?  Or Dashiel Hammett to call his book the Falcon?  Don’t you see that adjectives make a difference, sometimes an important one?”


“They’re all great writers who know when to use a word and when to leave it out.  You seem to think the more words the better!”

“Isn’t that a subjective opinion?  Some readers probably like it plain and simple, whilst others prefer a bit more colour.  If people like you and your Mr. Roget had their way in the art world, paintings would be reduced to diagrams.”

Colin looked at the cover of a book on his desk.  There was a picture of matchstick men on a minimalist background.  He said, “I can think of some modern artists who do just that, quite successfully!”

“Yes, but not everyone wants that kind of thing.  Surely we want to give the readers a choice?”

“Go through your manuscript and take out all the adjectives and adverbs that don’t add anything to the narrative or even to the descriptions.  Then I’ll see if I can persuade the firm to give it another look.”

Can the Wars of the Roses be rewritten?

I have enjoyed the recent BBC Shakespeare season, especially The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses.  There were lots of great performances, not just by Benedict Cumberbach.  However, I found it strange to be reminded of Shakespeare’s take on the history of the Fifteenth Century, having not long ago read the books by Philippa Gregory and the TV series The White Queen.

I realise why this is so.  Philippa Gregory has the benefit of modern scholarship not available to the Bard.  She is also more of a historian, as is usual among modern writers of historical fiction.

Apart from that, despite the plays being very long by modern standards (the BBC cut them back a lot) Shakespeare seems to have edited history to combine certain events as well as to leave out others.Shakespeare was first and foremost a playwright.  He was also careful not to offend Queen Elizabeth.  In those days censorship could be serious: you had a lot to lose.

I wonder how much poetic licence it is acceptable to take these days.  Feel free to let me have your opinion.


In case you are wondering how it is going, I have decided my draft novel is far too long, but I am not just going to shorten it: I am going to cut it in half.  Of course, that does not mean it will finish abruptly halfway.  It means I am cutting out large sections which will go into the sequel.  The first book will have a proper ending.  I am also talking to a potential editor who will correct all my mistakes, hopefully.  After that will come the marketing and approaching publishers.  This all takes longer than you might think.

Watch this space!

I’ve got spam!

Almost all the comments received so far on this blog have been spam.  The main exception was someone asking if I knew how to exclude spam from a blog!  Were you joking?  If you know, please tell me.  When I have found a way, I will let you know.

Let’s hope I get some real comments soon.

What’s happening?

In case you were wondering what I am writing, here is the present position:

  • I have finished the first draft of my first novel.  It is being reviewed by a few friends.
  • When I have considered their feedback and made any changes I think desirable, I will send it to a professional editor.
  • When I have made further changes in response to his/her report, I will either send it to a few publishers or self-publish it through CreateSpace.  I might do both.
  • This all takes time, so I cannot say for certain when the book will be available.

I can tell you it is set in the early Eighteenth Century and is about a young man coming home to Wales from war to find his father is in debtors’ prison having lost all their money and the farm.  The son, aided by his sister, becomes a highwayman, hoping to restore the family’s fortunes. He becomes involved in a mystery and then tries to solve a murder.  The story takes us from Wales to Lancashire and Scotland with a few interludes in London.  It is fiction, but is set against a background of actual national and international events.

Before it is published, I will be writing a few short stories involving some of the main characters from the novel.  These will be available free to those who ask for them via my website at and I will let you know on this blog when they become available.  Watch this space!