Why Adverbs are your distant boyfriend

I’m an adverb assassin. When critiquing my work or someone else’s, I’m on the hunt for them. They clutter good writing, and either tell us something obvious or leave us scratching our head.

Imagine it this way. You come home from a long day at work. You plop down on the couch next to your spouse/lover/robotic friend. You stroke their cheek or tighten the bolt on the side of their head and ask,

“How was your day?”

They reply, “It went by really quickly.” They stare at you with no expression and turn on the TV.

Wow, talk about being evasive. Did anything exciting happen? Did our robotic overloads rise up against us? Did you find a penny in the street? Details!

If they had been a good boyfriend he would’ve replied, “It sped by. I time traveled at lunch and met Abraham Lincoln. At three, I ran into my ex in the elevator. And yes, on my way home, I found a penny in the street.”

Good details and strong verbs can replace weak adverbs. As a writer, every word counts. And if we’re looking at a 115,000 word novel, adverbs are the first words to cut.

Let’s go back to the original statement.

“It went by really quickly.” He angrily growled.

A growl indicates anger. (or sexy time if you’re Alcide from True blood) No need for the angrily. Or you could even use an action tag to SHOW anger. Hang out by a returns and exchanges section of a retail store, you’ll learn what anger looks like.

Now, let’s go on to later that night. Dishes have been cleaned, animals been fed, and you’re both in bed. Your boyfriend still hasn’t given the details of his day. So you push him and he replies, “I carefully told you of my day, now let me peacefully go to sleep and dream merrily.”

Wow, he got talkative..and wordy. The more concise way to end the conversation would be “I answered you earlier. Leave me alone. I’m going to bed.”

See the difference? Talk about a punch in the gut. And he’s guaranteed to sleep on the couch and not your bed.

While I hate adverbs, they aren’t all bad. They can be useful, but in moderation. Make them have an impact. Don’t believe me? Take your adverb filled sentence and strip it bare of them. Read it out loud. 9 out of 10 times, the line will be stronger without them, and more emotion packed.

Here’s more helpful links about adverbs:

Overcoming Adversity – Janice Hardy

Adverbidly – Janice Hardy

IO9- What’s so bad about adverbs

What’s your thoughts? Hate adverbs, love them? Let’s dish on these dreaded parts of speech.


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