Good post, James.
In “The First Five Pages,” Noah Lukeman says that one thing that will cause the agent to fling a manuscript into the slush pile is too many adjectives. So what agents do, according to Lukeman, is to scan the first page and look for the tell-tale commas that inevitably separate adjectives in a string. When they spot those commas, out goes the manuscript.
Maybe that’s extreme, but he does advise a one-adjective-per-noun limit. He suggests scanning your string and looking for the adjectives that mean the same thing, then deleting all but the strongest one. If you wind up with two adjectives that mean quite different things, he advises deleting the one you can live without. His rationale: you may lose something by deleting that adjective, but which would you rather have: that second adjective or a reading of your manuscript?
It sounds extreme, but I tried it on my own manuscript and I must admit that the result was much stronger–and it read much faster.