Monday, November 15, 2010

To Adverb or Not - a case for, mostly, and against, somewhat

Here is a guest post by my friend and writing group member, Lee.  She is a retired teacher so she knows a thing or two about those rascally adverbs. 

Adverbs are words that add to the meaning of verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. They answer the questions,  how? when? how much? and to what extent?
            The adverb in the sentence He played valiantly would be inappropriate in a sports news article but would be a useful setup for a sports columnist who would then explain the statement with factual back-up. The adverb in the sentence He played yesterday is probably necessary.  The adverb in the following sentence, He played football often in his spare time, lets the reader know that the game was important in the person’s life. 
            In her book Salt, Monique Truong describes the famous Paris apartment of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. She writes dense sentences enhanced by her use of adjectives and adverbs. 
            Paper-white narcissuses, one hundred bulbs in shallow pools, moistened pebbles, their roots exposed, clinging, pale anchors steadying the blooms as they angle toward the sun. The windows are never completely closed because the sweet, powdery scent would be unbearable. In those corners where sunlight is an unfulfilled promise, there are bowls of varying sizes holding hydrangea clusters, dried, the color of barely brewed tea. With no water to weigh them down, the blooms rattle against their china vessels whenever a draft sidles through the garret. The petals scraping lightly against the bone-enriched walls sing the song of a rainfall. I choose to remember these things only. The rest I will discard.
            An argument could be made for the necessity of each of the four adverbs used in this excerpt; although, they could be deleted and the sentences would still be readable. The last adverb needs no such argument.  The last two sentences and the word only  send the reader careening into the next paragraph.
            Don’t forget about conjunctive adverbs, words and phrases that can join two thoughts; such as, such as, for instance, and therefore. They need the help of a semicolon and a comma in order to have the power to join entire sentences.
            On the other hand, are adverbs overused? Definitely.  Certain words become trendy, then overused until they mean next to nothing. That’s why adverbs such as really, truly, and very should be avoided. One more instance of adverb use to be avoided is in the identifying part of dialog. “Shut the door!” she yelled loudly is an instance in which the adverb is unnecessary and redundant. 
            I would go on about adverbs, but I’m finding this topic to be not just boring but very boring; however, I hope that some of this information will be useful to you. Be sure to thoughtfully consider each adverb in your sentences--to adverb or not.

by Lee Bradley

No comments: