I'm trying to be a bit artistic with my descriptions and am trying to use the below sentence constructs. Although I'm not sure how correct they are.

A black streaked in the distance

To mean - A crow/raven flew across his field of vision.


The fighter held a silver which shone like the edge of a blade.

To mean - The fighter held a weapon similar to a sword but not quite so.

I have tried to search for similar sentences but have not found any proper matches.

  • 3
    No. Though 'black', 'red', etc are often used as nouns, they can't be treated as totally interchangeable with 'something black'. A dictionary will give at least some acceptable usages (He potted a red // She won a gold // Silver is my favourite colour // t/The wearing of the green/Green ...). Famous respected authors like Anne McCaffrey sometimes introduce new usages (There were seven dragons – two blues, four greens, and a huge bronze) (not a quote). May 9, 2018 at 20:29

3 Answers 3


Neither of those sentences sound right.

Because you are using indefinite articles, it's going to be a count usage of the noun, which are:


1 : the dark color of coal or the night sky [noncount], [count]
3 [count] : a person belonging to a race of people who have dark skin : a black person
MW Learner's Dictionary


4 [count, noncount] : a shiny light gray color
5 [count] : silver medal
MW Learner's Dictionary

For me, the "natural" reading of your first sentence is "a black person ran naked in the distance". There are several reasons for this:

  • As a count noun with no adjectives, the "black person" definition is more common than the color definition. Plus, whenever the color definition is meant (again, when using it as a count noun with no adjectives) a color (and not a person) is very clearly meant: "A black can be made by mixing these two paints".
  • The phrasing "streaked in the distance" is likely to be interpreted as having a different meaning here than the one you intend because it doesn't have an adverbial of direction.

The sentence could be rewritten as:

Something black streaked across the sky in the distance.

As for the other sentence:

  • "Silver" meaning silver Olympic medal is very uncommon so it's super unlikely that anyone would read the sentence that way unless the context is Olympics-related. However, since it doesn't make sense to say someone is holding a color in their hand, the sentence just sounds wrong.

A proper way to write it is:

The fighter held something silver which shone like the edge of a blade.

(This version doesn't make it clear it's a weapon, however.)


Such usage would be a stretch. But here are some suggestions for the next best thing:

A streak of black [carved]/[crawled upon]/[glided across]/[...] the sky.

Here you can have fun with the verb.

With silver you'll need more significant modifications, as it also denotes the kind of material.


Practically speaking, you can't use a color to stand for something else unless the reader knows what that "something else" is, either from their own experience, or from something you have mentioned earlier in your text.

That said, you can leave something undefined for a long time, so that the reader gradually becomes aware of its meaning. Kazuo Ishiguro does this very skillfully in The Buried Giant.

I'm assuming from your question that you want to use the color nouns to create a certain mood in your reader's mind, and that you are looking for some ideas on how to do this "correctly". I think this is a good goal, and you shouldn't be discouraged by comments that focus excessively on grammar and conventional usage.

It's not easy to create moods, though, and my personal recommendation is that you study the work of writers that have done this successfully.

Depending on your writing goals, the collection of Science Fiction short stories at Project Gutenberg might be a good place to start. Short stories often rely on the "surprise" change of perception at the end, and SF short story writers are particularly adept at misleading their readers, in part because the stories are often set in contexts where the reader's past experience can't be reliably applied.

You may be familiar with the story that Hunter S. Thompson typed out F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in order to understand Fitzgerald's writing style. If not, it's here.

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