Adjectives are valuable parts of the language, but they often just embellish writing, like surplus ornaments on a Christmas tree.

It is fine to refer to “an important proposal” or “an enthusiastic manager” because each adjective helps to provide a specific description by narrowing the meaning of the noun it modifies. But we often rely too heavily on adjectives to carry the load.

Just so we know what we’re talking about, here is a quick definition: Adjectives describe by telling which one (that book), what kind( a wooden desk) or how many (several proposals)

The use of surplus modifiers is pervasive in marketing and PR. When you say, The new mint strip is an innovative new product providing powerful, germ-killing ingredients in a revolutionary, portable delivery pack, the reader is worn out by the time she gets to the end.

What happens is that the adjectives become a distraction. They begin to jump off the page, drawing more attention than your message. Decorating the sentence with hollow adjectives will not make the product more appealing.

Another way we weaken writing with surplus adjectives is that we take a strong noun, such as crisis, and we make it an adjective describing another word, as in a crisis situation. Just say it’s a crisis and trim the noun. The flights at the airport are not in an oversold situation, as they tell us; they are simply oversold. A sign on a door in an office building said, Open this door only in cases of extreme emergencies. Apparently it was all right to open the door for any relaxing emergencies that arose.

Adjectives are helpful, but use them carefully.