Writing Tip: Don’t Rush to Judgment


One of the hardest things to do, in writing as in life, is to not judge. In writing, every time you express your opinion or judgment, you are robbing your reader of theirs. Think about it.  If you are describing climbing Mount Everest, you could accurately describe it as difficult, or challenging, or painful, or exciting.  But these are all your judgments.  If you want your reader to understand how it is to climb Mount Everest, he or she must have an experience, so they can form their own opinion that it is difficult, challenging, painful, or exciting.

Here’s a simple exercise that practices getting rid of judgment words and replacing them with original detail. Describe the room you are sitting in right now. Describe everything and anything in it – without using any adjectives or adverbs that imply opinion (such as pretty, or dirty, or jarring, or too anything). Use only words that cannot be disputed. This does not mean your writing will be bland.  For instance, here’s a room: The sofa arms have been used as the cat’s scratching post. The once-white ceiling drops crumbly bits on the floor. A starling makes a blawk blawk sound from her nest in the eaves just outside the window. There is a smell of leftovers in the air. Do I really have to say that the person describing this room thinks the room is unkempt and lonely?



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