Here at the Trying Too Hard Sweepstakes, we’re always looking for simple answers to complicated questions.
For example, a big problem among critics is a tendency to crowd too many descriptive words into a limited space. When in doubt, the experts say, get rid of ALL ADVERBS, but this is easier said than done.
Take this sentence from a New York Times caption about a play on Broadway:
“The script is neither a dramatically shapely piece of writing nor a deeply probing character study.”
Blub, blub, blub, goodness. Now here is a Trying Too Hard cautionary tale. The unnecessary adverbs (“dramatically,” “deeply”) give the sentence a stuffed-to-the-gills feel and yet deleting them makes the sentence slightly deflated: “The script is neither a shapely piece of writing nor a probing character study.” But it’s cleaner that way, and besides, if you don’t take ’em out, nobody will read it.
Glib cocktail-party words are always surprising in a serious review. Janet Maslin has a beaut when she refers to “something funnily incongruous” in Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Interestings.