Alexander McCall Smith Offers ...


alexander mccall smith

I know namedropping isn’t proper etiquette.

But I can’t help myself.

Alexander McCall Smith – yes THE Alexander McCall Smith who created Mma Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – was  kind enough to send the following e-mail my way:

adjectives alexander mccall smith

If you missed the Word Craft post last week, a little bit of background –

The Wall Street Journal added a column to its weekend lineup called Word Craft in which a different contributor weighs in each week on the words, style and philosophy behind communications.

I happened to zero in on the Word Craft column by Alexander McCall Smith called “Block That Adjective!”

As you might suspect from the title, Mr. McCall Smith espouses what I’ll term “prudent writing.”

I highlighted this paragraph from the “Block that Adjective!” column:

… Concise prose knows what it wants to say, and says it. It does not embellish, except occasionally, and then for dramatic effect. It is sparing in its use of metaphor. And it is certainly careful in its use of adjectives. Look at the King James Bible, that magnificent repository of English at the height of its beauty. The language used to describe the creation of the world is so simple, so direct. “Let there be light, and there was light.” That sentence has immense power precisely because there are no adjectives. If we fiddle about with it, we lose that. “Let there be light, and there was a sort of matutinal, glowing phenomenon that slowly transfused, etc.” No, that doesn’t work.

And added my commentary:

While the “voice” might have had something to do with the power of “Let there be light,” it’s still a wonderful paragraph.

Hopefully, Mr. McCall Smith will permit me that one adjective.

This was what prompted the author to believe I “would use adjectives carefully and to great effect.”

As they say in the sports world, “no pressure.”


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