Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Modifiers: Emphasis

Essentially, modifiers are adjectives and adverbs. They are words or phrases that change the meaning of a noun or verb. So rule 1: If the modifier doesn't modifier anything, take it out. 

I'll talk more about that in a later post (these little tykes are more complicated than one post could explain). Right now, I want to talk about using them to put emphasis on a particular point.

Every so often I review a story jammed packed with the little buggers, and sometimes it’s hard to explain why less is more. Surely more are better because they allow more imagery and detail! Well, not exactly. Using too many can cause the reader to take less away from the sentence than intended.

The idea is to be selective. Be aware that using modifiers can bring extra emphasis to a particular feature, but know that this power has a limited usage. Here’s an example:

The old gates creaked loudly as the chubby man walked through quickly. – No emphasis.

The old gates creaked as the man walked through. – Emphasis on the gates being old.

The gates creaked as the chubby man walked through. – Emphasis on the man being chubby.

As you can see, you’re more likely to blame the gates for the creak in the second sentence, where as you’d blame the man in the third. However, sentence one has far more detail than in necessary and its emphasis is diluted across the whole sentence. Basically, it’s harder to work out who is to blame. Should we purchase a new gate or should the man exercise more? No one knows (it’s irrelevant that no one cares...).

More on these later.