Adverbs and You

The next item from the “Do Not Do” list (posted January 10th of this year):

Eliminate adverbs, especially those with the dreaded -ly ending.

Adverbs with the -ly ending should be used sparingly. This sentence prompts the question, Why?

The sparing use of adverbs improves writing. Although this sentence also asks a question, (How?), the strength of the construction is declarative: a statement of fact rather than mere suggestion.

Adverbs exist for a reason; they are used to modify and strengthen a verb, but often -ly adverbs only add redundancy or offer a weak alternative to a stronger verb choice.

She turned quickly. Alone this sentence is adequate, but nothing more.

A better way may be to write Nancy spun (or pivoted, or whirled), or perhaps show the action–Nancy’s hair whipped across her shoulders when she turned [spun, pivoted, whirled].

The goal is to give the reader a sense of the action so they can view the scene in their mind.

A different example:

The two reports on “Man’s Migration From Africa” were different.

The two reports on “Man’s Migration From Africa” were profoundly different.

The use of the adverb profoundly in the second option enhances the meaning and thrust of the sentence. Notice how the adverb adds urgency so the reader anticipates a great disparity within the two reports and looks forward to reading more, whereas the first sentence remains innocuous, dull.

The examples show the impact an adverb can have. I assume the sentences and paragraphs to follow will detail the differences of the two reports. As with all sentence structure, the point the writer wishes to make comes with dozens of variables and word choices.

One choice may be to reform the sentence:

The two reports on “Man’s Migration From Africa” differed.

See, choices, always decisions depending on what and how you want to infer the information to the reader. With adverb usage, it is important to ensure the choice helps the sentence rather than hinders or masks a flaw in the construction.

Finding and eliminating the overuse of adverbs will happen in the second and subsequent drafts. Do not be overly concerned when in the heat and inspiration of the first draft; instead, get the ideas down, remembering the first draft will be inadequate.

Now, go type or write those words because without their appearance on the page the ideas remain imaginings rather than reality.

See you on the next page,



Author: Rick "C" Langford

Writer, blogger, Business Owner, dreamer, and fantasy lover

4 thoughts on “Adverbs and You”

  1. Fantastic set of recommendations. Thank you!
    I discovered a trick within Word. By inserting ‘ly’ into the “find” function, I can do a targeted seek and kill with wayward adverbs. For me, writing the adverbs the first time helps to get the words down on paper. The purge during the edits are like Spring cleaning!
    Thank you again.

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