Eschew Beastly Adjectives

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A rediscovered 35-year-old letter from Roald Dahl dispenses advice to a young writer in his trademark irascible fashion. After scolding the letter writer for “asking to much of [him],” Dahl offers this and other craft gems:

. . . eschew all those beastly adjectives. Surely it is better to say “She was a tall girl with a bosom” than “She was a tall girl with a shapely, prominent bosom”, or some such rubbish. The first one says it all.


Claire Burgess’s short fiction has appeared in Third Coast, Hunger Mountain, and PANK online, among others. Her stories have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prize and Best American anthologies, but haven’t actually made it into one yet. She’s a graduate of the Vanderbilt University MFA program, where she co-founded Nashville Review. She lives in Pittsburgh by way of the deep South and says things on Twitter @Clairabou_. More from this author →