How Not To Kill Sentences With Adverbs

Blog Graphic with a woman writing , and Those Deadly Words written on it

How would you like your coffee made…quickly or in a jiffy?

But I’m sure you would like to drink it slowly err… savour every sip to the last!

There you have it- those deadLY words that turn your awesome story into mundane chatter.

Stories struggle, not always because they are not good, but often because they are lost in the transition from imagination to ink. They lose impact because the words that carry them are too many, or the wrong ones, or the right ones placed wrongly.

No one is born perfect. Some of us just decide not to stay that way.

Nothing can make up for continuous improvement in grammar and writing techniques on the part of the writer. Varied and judicious use of different parts of speech can add flair to your creations and every trick and word is there to be used. Adverbs too have a function and reason to exist, and it would be foolish to remove them from your writing altogether. However, too much of a good thing can be, well, just too much.

This is beautifully illustrated by the words of the master-craftsman Stephen King

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

So, how to go about removing these offenders from your work?

One way is to make sure that you don’t need to say “he spoke timidly”. The scene should tell the reader that he is timid and his words “the room is too dark!” should tell you that he was scared to go inside. The context here is paramount. You can read more on how to eliminate adverbs here.

Another important tool is to use stronger, more expressive words in place of an adverb. You can always cuddle instead of holding lovingly or grumble rather than talk irritably. This article on ways to reduce adverb abuse has a great list of words that you can use instead of adverbs.

What are your favourite ways to write better? Share your tips and tricks, I would love to hear all about your secret weapons!

Right now, I’m off to try and put this into practice and see if I can take my words a notch or two above the ordinary. Until then, Happy Writing!


Image used in the graphic by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 


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