Again, this is from Becoming Your Own Critique Partner written by Jane Toombs and myself and published by Zumaya. This books was also an EPIC award winner in 2003.
What does modifying mean? Part of the meaning is changing the meaning of a noun, especially or a very by the use of adjectives or adverbs. This chapter of the book is called Modifying To Death. And we do mean death. I'm sure all of us have read and perpahs some of us have written a lush description full of adjectives, just strung them along like pearls on a string. Or we've come up with three or four lovely similies or other such modifying kind of things. Sometimes these strings of words all say the same thing and the reader will wonder if you can't make up your mind. Or you run these adjectives to death and you end up with a great passage of purple prose. Now if this is what you're aiming for, go ahead. But a reader will often put the book aside for the picture is too lush and multi-layered for them to understand what you really mean.
Now we come to adverbs. Most of these end in ly and are often used in tag lines. She said sweetly. He said angrily. You all know what these are. It's not that they're wrong but there are other ways to get the point across. What a sweet baby," she cooed.
Seems sweet to me. But there are other adverbs such as very. She was very tired. He was very old. Other and better ways to show these things. So is another of these things. She was so tired. He was so old. This kind of writing isn't wrong. It is drab and doesn't give the reader the picture you're trying to create with words.
When you're ready to start revising what you've written take a red pencil and underline all the adjectives you've used in say three pages. Then take a green one for adverbs. Look at them carefully and see which ones are needed. Choose the adjective that gives the most vivid picture and change that verb and adverb to a strong verb.