Monday, January 13, 2014

Adverbs Are Far Too Easy To Use


In school, we learn the parts of speech. Each one, we were told, has a job to do in the sentences we write. That's a pretty simplified version of learning a piece of grammar. But it will serve as an introduction to what I want to talk about today. 

Writers toss adjectives around a sentence to describe a person, place or thing--in other words, a noun. They also sprinkle adverbs into their dialogue tags with glee. They, too, are descriptive. How easy is it to have a character speak and then add an adverb in the tag line to let the reader know how the dialogue was spoken. Did John Doe speak his line harshly, happily, sadly, glumly, gleefully, angrily or some other ly word that describes a verb? Or sometimes writers use the one word adverb when a character does something. The writer wants us to know how the character performed whatever it might be. Easy enough to add one simple word. Maybe.

Using adverbs in this way speaks of a lazy writer. It tells us how the subject feels. It's far better to show what the speaker is feeling or doing. Dump the adverb and add something to show the same thing. If you do, you have a far more visual image. Adverbs can modify adjectives and other adverbs and not all end in ly, although a great many do so. 


1.OK:   John shut the door slowly.
   BETTER:  John inched the door until it closed.

2. OK:  Sally ran to school quickly.
    BETTER:  Sally ran to school faster than a jackrabbit in the desert.

3. OK:  Sam turned suddenly.
    BETTER:  Sam slid to a stop and turned the corner.

4. OK:  "I want to go home," Joanie said loudly.
    BETTER:  Joanie shrieked, "I want to go home"

5. OK: "I don't know," Buddy whispered softly.
    BETTER:  Buddy's voice softened to a bare whisper. "I don't know." 

Do you see that the second sentence in each example is more visual? Tells the reader more? Is more interesting? 

If you want to learn more about using adverbs or replacing them, use a search engine like google to find more detailed articles. 

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