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You, too, can fight adjectival bloat | COMMENTARY

When a writer is struggling to make a story look more interesting than it is, the tells are obvious. There are also tells for the writer’s prejudices and inadequate education.

Iconic When everything is iconic — and the adjective has been paired with nearly every common and proper noun that you can imagine — nothing is iconic.

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Dramatic If the circumstances aren’t dramatic, calling them that does not make them exciting.

Tragic See previous item.

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Controversial If there is no controversy over it, why are you writing about it in the first place?

Stately You cannot turn some monstrous McMansion’s farrago of discordant architectural elements into Blenheim Palace with an adjective.

Celebrity As a noun, it’s getting close to meaning “someone whose name is recognized by 150 people.” As an adjective for a dish, piece of furniture, occasion, or something else, you can count on an overly elaborate preparation and inflated cost.

Legendary All right, two hundred of your readers will recognize the name.

Prestigious A Nobel Prize is prestigious; the award for Top-Rankng Sales Agent for the Mid-Atlantic Corridor for the Third Year in a Row does not carry quite the same luster as a Nobel.

Hardscrabble The rubes have it bad enough without your sneering at them.  

Leafy Typically describes a neighborhood or suburb more affluent than the one the writer lives in.

Infamous It does not [cough] mean “famous.” Invest in a dictionary. And neither does notorious carry a favorable glow.

Fulsome Yes, while it originally meant “full of” in the sense of “copious” or “abundant,” it has come to mean “cloyingly excessive” or “unctuous.”

Ironic You’re using it to mean “coincidental,” aren’t you? Stop that.

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