There’s an interesting article on the adjective here. it’s by Ben Yagoda, who has a book called The Sound on the Page: Style and Voice in Writing which will be out in June. Based on this dense, almost chewy article, I think I might have a nibble. So there.
Yagoda quotes Twain, always worthwhile: “When you catch an adjective, kill it.” Twain was, of course, the master of hyperbole and of adjectives, too (from Tom Sawyer):
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while — plenty of company — and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.
My point? All this quibble about adjectives can be summarized in a short rule:
Go forth and be profligate no more.