Death To The Adverb!

By Natasha R.

You may or may not have heard about the dreaded adverb and why it’s bad in writing. In case you haven’t though, let me start from the beginning.

Adverb – a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there )

So, what makes the adverb bad? Adverbs in and of themselves are not bad. They’re very prominent in academic writing and essays, but that sort of writing is meant to inform people. It’s telling. That, my friends, is why adverbs are considered lazy writing. A large amount of adverbs will make your manuscript telling and not showing.

Does that mean you can’t ever use an adverb? Of course not! Sometimes they’re appropriate, but most times, in the editing stage, you’re going to be able to pluck out those adverbs and find a stronger way to write your sentence.

Example:

Joan passionately, intimately, and abrasively kissed Michael. 

Whoah! That’s a lot of adverbs, and all telling. There’s no picture in my head of Joan and Michael’s kiss.

So, how do we turn it into showing?

Let’s get rid of those adverbs and expand on this kiss.

Joan leaned forward, her lips brushing against Michael’s. His warm breath caressed her, causing passion to ignite in her veins. Unable to restrain herself, Joan put a hand to the back of his neck, and pulled Michael forward. Their lips pressed together, a sharp pain flashing before the pleasure pushed it away and consumed her.

See the difference? Showing will pull the reader in, let them get lost in the scene as opposed to just telling them like it’s some sort essay or life you’re telling them about. Let them be part of it. Chop the adverbs.

Here’s a list of common adverbs you may want to try and avoid. Though a good indication is usually the ‘ly’.

Adverbs To Watch Out For

  • Happily
  • Quickly
  • Beautifully
  • Adoringly
  • Hopefully
  • Angrily
  • Smartly
  • Sadly
  • Knowingly
  • Naturally
  • Silently
  • Shyly
  • Warmly
  • Oddly
  • Blissfully

Etc, and so on, but you get the idea. Is it something you need to worry about during your first draft? No. It is, however, something to watch out for during edits and revisions. You will make your manuscript so much stronger by slaying the dreaded adverb.

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