Why Adverbs Will Really Probably Always Mostly Suck

If you can’t tell what this post is about by the title, then you must read this word for word and commit it to memory.

**Adverbs will really probably always mostly suck, but they do have a purpose when used in the proper way.

I have to admit that I do not turn on my adverb filter when blogging because it’s like I’m having a conversation with all of you and it’s casual, so though I probably should edit them, I don’t.  (Okay, I did here but it’s part of the lesson). 

Using the word probably in the above sentence adds nothing to it.  Either I should edit or I shouldn’t.  Probably should means should.  So why not say what I mean? 

Because adverbs exist to encourage laziness. 

They lurk in the writer’s head, ready to serve at a moment’s notice.

So, how do you edit them?  Do you slay all of them?  Do a search for -ly words and hit delete?


Remember:  They have their place!  They are a legit part of grammar!

Look at the following examples:

1)  He lingered, annoyingly confident, his smile challenging me to resist him.
     **Is confidence always annoying?  No.  Because of this fact, you understand how the POV character perceives the man’s behavior.  In this case, the adverb serves its purpose.  Without it, you know he’s confident but you don’t know the effect of that confidence on the POV character.

2)  He lingered, really confident, his smile challenging me to resist him.
      **Ok…confident by definition is being certain about something.  Certain by definition means established beyond doubt.  Really cannot enhance the word more than its own meaning, therefore it’s not serving any purpose here.

When editing adverbs, ask yourself these questions:

1.  Does it enhance the word it modifies? annoyingly confident   alarmingly calm

2.  Is it redundant?  totally complete   screamed loudly

3.  Can the adverb + verb combination be replaced by a stronger verb?
     drank quickly = gulped    moved slowly = creeped

4.  Can the adverb + adjective combination be replaced by a stronger descriptor? 
     terrifyingly scary = horrific    stunningly beautiful  = gorgeous

5.  Is the adverb causing you to tell instead of show?   He waited fearfully can be shown by having the character bite his nails and sweat, tremble and want to run, or any other sign of fear and panic.

6.  Is the adverb located in a dialogue tag?  If so, is it redundant to what was just said?  If not, how can you better show what the adverb is trying to do?

    * “If you touch her again you will answer to me,” he said threateningly.  Uhm…yeah.  That’s a threat.  This is redundant.  I know from the dialogue that he’s making a threat.

     *“I want to go home,” she said urgently. = “I need to go home.  Now,” she said. The second sentence is better because the reader is not being told, but shown the urgency through the character’s dialogue.

7.  Can I keep this pretty little adverb?

     **“Really,” she said.  “You’re an idiot.”  In the case of dialogue, adverbs are permissable because that’s how people talk.  Just don’t overdo it.

       **He waited impatiently by the door.  Sometimes you need to tell.  And sometimes you need to use an adverb to do that.  It could be rephrased as He waited with eagerness by the door but if that does not suit the tone of your book, then go with what works. 
Now…I do search for -ly words when I edit but I don’t automatically (<- like this one) delete them all.  I go through and study each use by asking the above questions.  Overall, this will not only tighten your manuscript, but clarify your writing as well.

Remember: Adverbs will really probably always mostly suck, but they do have a purpose when used in the proper way.

Good Luck!  Happy editing!

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