Kick adverbs to the curb

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that. Stephen King

How to improve your writing in one easy step. Cut out every word that ends in “ly”. Nine times out of ten it’s an adverb.

At times we allow adverbs to overrun our writing. The reason we use adverbs at all is because we write a weak verb and are too lazy to find a better one. An action verb that doesn’t need qualifying with an adverb.

Most adverbs either tell us what we already know or use too many words to communicate an image or idea.1

Here’s an example:
“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked flirtatiously.

It’s a horrid sentence. The adverb flirtatiously tells the reader how she asked the question, when instead it should show how she asked:

“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.

It may not be the greatest sentence ever written, but showing the character batting her eyelashes is a lot better than telling readers she asked a question flirtatiously.

Whether you’ve been writing for a few days or for many years, you’ll benefit from evaluating the words you use. Cut the filler to make your writing stronger.
Since Adverbs are so Plentiful, Why are They Scorned?
Because adverbs are weak, especially those that end in –ly. Instead of adding depth, meaning, or action to a sentence, they slow it down. In fiction, adverbs can even make the reader feel insulted, rather like the author is inserting himself into the story to TELL the reader “how it is being done” or “what this really means.”

Good writers (e.g. tight writers) find the right verb, a strong verb, that will SHOW the reader what is going on. Like a magnet, strong verbs pull the reader into the story, making him or her a part of the drama. Adverbs can’t do that.

1Write Tight by William Brohaugh, was the inspiration for this post. Most of the text is quoted from this fantastic writing book.

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