Block Those Adjectives and Adverbs

From a page one story, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience—and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” in today’s Washington Post:

his trusted confidant

a breathtaking move

a prime mover

the private accounts

a conflicting narrative

brewing personal animus

to candidly discuss

his baseless claim

more aggressively pursue

grew increasingly dissatisfied

has left raw anger

deeply distrusted Comey

the ferocious reaction

the friendly confines


  1. Richard Mattersdorff says

    Jack, what means “block” in this context?

    I will say that these adjectives and adverbs remind me of Jack Anderson, of (somewhat) blessed memory. (I just finished Mark Feldstein’s POISONING THE PRESS, so Anderson is on my mind.)

  2. Richard, I used block to mean stop it.

    It was a play on a long-running New Yorker space-filler called “Block That Metaphor.” An example they once used:

    “The coattails of a successful favorite son can serve as a ladder to lift all life with access into the perfumed White House atmosphere of perks and power.”

    In good narrative stories, as this Washington Post piece was, writers often are tempted to use adjectives and adverbs to try to make things seem more dramatic. As an editor, that kind of writing always set off my b.s. detector.

    • Richard Mattersdorff says

      Thank you. Got it.

      From a book on political leadership some 35 years ago: Charisma is the wildcard that reorders the values contained in the deck of extant historical determinants.

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