Here's an example:

Mary had never concealed Marcos as though he were an (ugly) scar. No, far from that. She'd always exhibited him around like a sexy birthmark.

I think the word ugly is unnecessary here, since a scar is assumed to be ugly. A birthmark, on the other hand could be either ugly or beautiful.

The only reason to use ugly, in my opinion, would be to keep things symmetrical (ugly scar, sexy birthmark).

What the best option in these cases? Symmetry or simplicity?

  • 2
    There's no "better" here. Symmetry is something that can sound good or add emphasis. Sometimes you choose to use it; sometimes not. Whenever you're debating, you need to figure out which way of phrasing gives you the best effect.
    – Standback
    Jan 19, 2017 at 8:20
  • Please explain your downvote so the person asking the question can address your concerns.
    – user5645
    Jan 19, 2017 at 8:52

3 Answers 3


You're thinking too deeply

You're going way too far into this. I wouldn't say 'lack of unnecessary elements', rather 'description'.

In writing, there is no symmetry on the page. Two nouns both having adjectives doesn't necessarily create symmetry. You should know the following:

  • Only have necessary descriptions.

If you stick to that you'll be fine. For example, if you think the scar doesn't need to be described as ugly, don't describe it as ugly.

To be honest, you can get away with skipping loads of descriptions.

I hope this helped you.


Generally speaking, simplicity and clarity come first as a priorities in writing, especially narrative prose.

I personally love symmetry, redundancy and I naturally use plenty of adjectives for each noun I write. Sometimes even couples of adjectives (ugly and nasty scar, meek and pretty face, etc.). But I love it - that doesn't mean it always works, or that it's necessary.

So the question you ask is: does it work? Is it necessary? Are you going for rhythm and musicality, or for effectiveness? If stylistic symmetry has a purpose in your story (your character is a perfectionist, an abstract thinker, an obsessive, etc.) then make your prose sound like that. If redundant descriptions make sense in your prose (ugliness is a feature trait and you need to stress it out as much as you can) then make your prose sound like that.

If you don't need it other than "it just sounds right", then take it out. Your editor will in any case, I guess ;)


I personally think that the word "ugly" is necessary in the example above. I know a lot of people who think scars are cool - unless they are ugly. In which case you generally want to hide them.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.