Monday, April 7, 2014

Using Adverbs Effectively

Not every writer is a fan of adverbs. According to Stephen King, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs."

There have been many campaigns led to "kill the adverb."

But, in all that blunder and huff, did it ever occur to anyone that the adverb can also be used effectively when writing?

I'm not saying we should pepper our writing projects with adverbs, but used judicially, they can be very effective and help progress your story.

So, what does an adverb do, actually?

1. An adverb tells us more about a verb.

2. An adverb describes or modifies the verb in some way.

3. Many adverbs end with the suffix "ly" but not all.

4. Adverbs often tell us how something happened.


A good way to identify an adverb is to look for the "ly" ending, however not all adverbs end in "ly".

Here is a short list of some adverbs that do not end in "ly".

Fast 
Often 
Very 
Quite 
So 
Well

We use each of these words "often", don't we?

According to the website Emphasis ".. good, clear writing is more about communicating your meaning efficiently than banging your point home – and that means only using adverbs that add genuine, useful information. Whenever possible, show, don’t tell."

It makes sense, right? In whatever we write, we need to always make sure we are "showing" and not "telling" to get our point across. So, a smart move would be to only use adverbs in the add genuine, useful information.

From the Daily Post at Wordpress.com I found a great post about adverbs:

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and sometimes even other adverbs. They’ll often tell us “how” something was done, e.g., He walked slowly. Or, He walked very sowly. But, do adverbs clarify, or are they crutches for lazy or rushed writers who rely on adverbs to do their verbs’ heavy lifting? What if, instead of using adverbs to tell us how the man walked, we swapped in a stronger verb to show us how he walked?
Consider these alternatives:
  • The man plodded.
  • The man ambled.
  • The man trudged.
In each instance above, our new verb not only better describes how the man moved, it creates a picture in the reader’s mind. Stronger verbs can also convey emotion more effectively, which makes for stronger, vivid writing.
If you're looking for some extra exercises on helping understand modifiers go here.

Always remember this, your purpose in writing your story is to show as much as possible to the reader. If all else fails, reach for an adverb, but try in every way to find an alternative first. For stronger writing, use stronger words.