Monday, November 8, 2010

The Dreaded Adverb

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."  ~Stephen King

Writers I work with are sick of hearing me repeat that quote over and over and over, but I love it.  And I hate adverbs. 

They can be lazy fill-in words that come easily(adverb) when writing.  The trick is in the editing, when the writer can go through the manuscript and get rid of as many of the adverbs as possible.  Deleting these little rascals will clean and tighten the writing. 

My three-step process for eliminating these sluggish words is as follows:

First, get rid of it.  Erase it.  Be gone, adverb.

Don't say "I probably didn't like it."  Either you did or you didn't.  "I didn't like it."

Second, replace it with something else. 

"She was beautifully dressed."  What does that mean?  "She wore a green beaded dress that shimmered in the spotlights."  Now I can see the dress.

Third, if you can't get rid or it or replace it with something else, then (big sigh) keep it.  That pains me to say.

When I am editing a manuscript, I circle all of the "ly" words.  Most writers are amazed by how many adverbs they are using and this is a good way for them to follow the three-step process and eliminate the adverbs. And since I find myself using the little critters, I circle mine during the editing process also.

So why not grab something you're working on and start circling the "ly" words. How many are there?  Does that surprise you?  Now grab your pen or computer keys and get rid of them.


Disclaimer - In the course of writing this blog, I explored the definition of adverbs.  Since I'm not much of a grammarian, a lot of it confused me.  Modifying and qualifying, it all starts sounding like a grammar gremlin after awhile.  I'm not discounting the importance of grammar, but I don't want it to get in the way of my first draft, either.  So, I haven't included the grammar definition and examples of adverbs in this blog.  If you want that info, just Google "adverb."


~Tricia said...

I don't use adverbs--hardly ever.


Penny Rosema said...

Thank you for sending the link to your website. I have it saved to my favorites and RSS feed [when I figure out how that works]. I look forward to being inspired to getting back to writing.

~Tricia said...

Lee - I hardly barely ever use them, to.

Penny - Anything I can to inspire you to write, I'm there!