Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear Internet, Please Learn Some New Adjectives

Before you continue reading this post, go to your favorite social sites and check out some of the links.  It doesn't matter what type of links they are.  They can be political links or humorous links or food links or fitness links.  Note how the link is described.  What words do the sponsors use to make you click over to their article or website?  What words do they use to draw you in with a promise of shock, awe, or delight?

There is a strong chance that whatever information they are about to provide you with is "mind blowing".

Everything you see on the Internet promises to "blow your mind."  What exactly does that mean?  If you read the article, will there be a constant rush of air in your ears?  Are bits of readers' brains scattered all over the page?  Is your mind blown up, or is it simply pushed in a different direction?  Is it a positive thing or a negative thing to have one's mind blown, because I have seen it used both ways.

The most egregious offender of lack of creative adjectives is Cracked.com.  Every list of useless factoids they put out there for the bored public is said to be mind blowing.  Unfortunately the phrase is now seeping into many other websites.  The chocolate cake recipe from a popular food blogger will blow your mind.  The candid celebrity photo from your favorite gossip site will blow your mind.  The latest political scandal on your favorite commentary site will blow your mind.  In response we are all zombies, admitting that our minds are blown. No one ever says in what direction.

This is the sorry state of writing and journalism. I complain to anyone who will listen about the poor grammar and usage in far too many blogs and websites these days. Can't a single fitness writer learn the difference between less and fewer or amount and number? Can't a blogger just look up the proper use of lie and lay?  (Hint: If you're saying "lay", there is a very good chance you're wrong.) Why can't a political essayist have good enough editors who can understand when to use me, myself, and I?  (Hint: if you use "myself", you're probably wrong.)  Now writers are too lazy to expand their horizons with the words they use?  The same adjectives are used to describe very different situations and emotions.  This is just careless and apathetic writing.

If you truly want to be a good writer, you can do better than that.  Go get a thesaurus if you have to.  If you keep going back to the same tired adjectives, you will eventually lose your audience.  If everything promises to be "mind-blowing" then soon readers will feel that nothing is mind blowing.

In that spirit, I would like to suggest some adjectives that writers can use other than mind-blowing.

Are you looking to express surprise?  How about saying it's shocking, stunning, astonishing, awe-inspiring, perplexing, or even amazing?

Is your goal to express a sense of disgust?  Try using horrifying,  distasteful, scandalous, disquieting, atrocious, or unspeakable.

Do you want your readers to expect a sense of something beautiful or positive?  This time write splendid, exquisite, sublime, distinctive, or enticing.

What about if you are talking about food?  Do you want to lure readers to a recipe?  You can always stick with good, old-fashioned delicious.  There is also exquisite, superb, tasty, scrumptious, mouthwatering, or piquant.

It's funny how the Internet has given so many different people and different viewpoints a voice, but in many ways it is making us all more alike.  We adopt the same phrases.  We repeat the same jokes.  We tell the same stories.  Maybe it's not just about the adjectives.  We need to liberate ourselves from Internet groupthink altogether.  Close this blog and read a book - preferably one written pre-Internet.

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