Adios, Adverbs

“If your manuscript has too many adverbs and clichés, it most likely means that the emotion you felt while writing it is not going to translate to the reader in the same way. Never underestimate the weakness of adverbs and clichés. You’d be surprised how vivid your writing will become once they are subverted.”
Jessica Bell

Pity the poor adverb! Everywhere I look these days, I see critiques defaming this innocent schnook of a construction. Take Jessica’s comment above as Exhibit A. It’s from a Writer’s Digest online article boldly — ah, another pesky adverb! — called, “How to Cut Adverbs From Your Writing.” Jessica is the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, author of Adverbs & Clichés In a Nutshell, and director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop (wow, now that sounds appealing!). I guess Jennifer knows a thing or two about adverbs. In a nutshell, here’s her advice from on “subverting” them:

Axing adverbs strengthens prose: Adverbs dampen impact: According to Jennifer, “too many adverbs weaken your story,” because they tell how something happens instead of showing what happens. This is considered lazy writing: definitely a no-no!

Axing them all is a bad idea: Adverbs and even cliché’s may work well in certain situations, dialogue, for example. So don’t dump all of them, but be sure that they’re sprinkled very judiciously throughout your prose, not splashed across every page.

Using adverbs can dilute drama: No adverb, says Jennifer, is going to draw attention to a “moment of intensity like something crafted for it exclusively.” Adverbs can impede action and feel run of the mill to readers. So opt for a well-crafted description that really pops.

Juice up your prose with verbs: You can often take an adverbial phrase and substitute a verb for it that packs more punch or conveys an image more directly. For example, instead of “she knocked on the door lightly,” you can simply say “she tapped on the door.”

Play around: Experiment with “similes and metaphors when you’re trying to convey emotion, and for action, use strong verbs to show it happening in real time.”

Adverb hunters, unite. And write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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3 Responses to Adios, Adverbs

  1. Nicole Gray says:

    All hail the mighty, mighty verb. Excellent post, Karin!

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