Monday, November 23, 2015

In Defense of Adverbs

I like asking Google why the world hates adverbs. A lot of interesting results pop up. Most of them make me feel just a little sad. You see... I like adverbs*. I can’t help it. They’re too fun.  

Writing teachers might tell you to avoid  adverbs like the plague, but can you imagine NEVER using them EVER AGAIN? Read a few classics and you’ll find that adverbs have infected nearly every page. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was completely absent of adverbs, and if I ever find one I have a feeling it will feel empty and soulless.

I like to think of adverbs the same way I think of alliteration**. If you enthusiastically insert incredibly interpretive wording that overpoweringly describes your point, no one will take you seriously. Writing sentences like that is fun – it makes me feel like Dr. Seuss – but it won’t give your novel an edge. It certainly won’t make you a better writer.

Adverbs can modify just about anything. They’re incredibly versatile, and if you have a hard time coming up with exactly the right word, they can feel like life-savers. I think that’s why they are so easy to carry too far. Like any wonderful thing, too many adverbs can transition your writing from interesting to overwhelming. A writer’s first step should be to find the coolest, best, most awesome verbs and nouns. But don’t let anyone make you feel bad for branching out. If you need an adverb because that’s how your character talks, it fits better with your style, or it just sounds better, use the adverb.

When I was taking reporting classes in college, the only professor who didn’t yell at me for adverb use was the one professor who’d won a Pulitzer for his writing. Newspapers are traditionally famous for using a low number of adverbs – they’re also written for someone with an eighth grader’s reading level. Is that the kind of experience you want for your readers? Then go for it! If, however, you like writing that doesn’t feel like a slough through academia…maybe you’ll consider coming to the Dark Side (we have adverb cookies).




Michelle is getting ready for three weeks in Europe, and the ONLY reason she’s unhappy about it is she’s leaving the day Star Wars comes out. *le sigh* It could be worse, right?   


*This is whispered because sometimes when you whisper things, people don’t get as mad about them.

**Another thing I love that I’m supposed to hate. Writers can be so bossy sometimes. :)

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