Adjectives: when nice is not so nice
When using a language that is not your own, however well you know it, there is almost always a tendency to fall back on certain words that you like, or that spring most readily to mind and to use these repeatedly with impunity. This is particularly so where adjectives are concerned.
I remember a teacher telling my class at school that a "nice umbrella" meant a "waterproof umbrella", but that you couldn't say "What a waterproof day!". The point was, of course, that we English-speakers tend to overuse the word "nice", when wishing to convey something or someone good, agreeable, pleasant, personable, amicable, friendly, lovely, attractive, beautiful, enjoyable, suitable, comfortable, effective, etc. To illustrate the point, let's look at an imaginary postcard written by a couple on holiday in Scotland, sent to two friends of theirs. In writing this card, they've only used one adjective (nice).
Dear Bill and Jenny,
Would you be able to alter the text so that
nice isn't used at all?
A quick look at one or two other frequently
used adjectives, and their possible replacements
A thesaurus comes in handy here, as it gives a list of possible synonyms for a particular word, and this helps to ensure an imaginative and accurate rendering. Some words are graduations or nuances of the main adjective, and this serves to better qualify the noun where relevant (i.e. filthy is very dirty; "challenging" is a less negative concept than "awkward"; greasy denotes the kind of dirt, etc.).
Remember that all colours are adjectives and
that these come closest to the noun where a
colour is accompanied by another adjective,
The exception to this rule is where there is
an adjective describing what the noun is made
of. As this is more the essence of the noun,
it always comes just before the latter.
And now for that postcard again. Wouldn't this sound better?:
Dear Bill and Jenny, We had an enjoyable
journey up here on the train, and are staying
in a comfortable hotel overlooking a beautiful
lake (or "loch", should I say, as
we're in Scotland!), with spectacular views
of the mountains in the distance. We've met
another couple from Bishopsgate, would you believe
- very friendly people. The food's good and
as for activities, we can go for bracing walks
and cycle rides. The weather's been fine too,
so we've been in luck there. Hope you had a
lovely time in Tuscany - we look forward to
hearing about it.
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