Adjectives

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun to make it more specific.

woman-typing-writing-windowsAdjectives are a writer’s best friend. They help describe a person, place, or thing to allow a reader to form a mental picture of a subject.  For example: 

“Sarah asked the man for directions.” or “Sarah asked the old, bald-headed man for directions.”

“The building was home to the local Masonic Lodge.” or “The two story, wood building was home to the local Masonic Lodge.”

Adjectives bring stories to life and bring the reader into the narrative.

However, there are some adjectives that I would like to see abolished, especially when they refer to people. The phrase “tall black man” may be useful in writing, but does it have a place in describing people?  Do we have to add racial, ethnic, and religious labels to identify or “classify” people?  These adjectives only point out differences between people and say nothing about an individual’s personality, skills, traits, and values. They attach group values to an individual based on past experience with a group or categorization of people based what important people believe or want you to believe.

ethnic_groupsI believe that most of the time these labels are racist in intent. They are superficial and demeaning, the vocabulary of lazy and bigoted minds. We should not describe our friends with labels such as: “my black friend John,” “my Jewish doctor Nathan,”  “my Catholic neighbor Mary,” “my Hispanic teammate Peter,” or “my son’s Asian girl friend Nancy.”

ethnic_youngYoung people do not feel the necessity of employing these labels, let’s hope that they can set an example for all of us.

About Allen Mesch

Allen is a author, educator, and historian. He has written four books: The Analyst; Teacher of Civil War Generals; Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith; Charles A. Marvin - "One Year. Six Months, and Eleven Days", and Preparing for Disunion. He teaches classes on the American Civil War at Collin College. He has visited more than 130 Civil War sites and shares his over 4,000 photographs on Civil-War-Journeys.org. He blogs about the Civil War on Salient Points.
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