Posted in Editing

Adverbs and Your Writing

I have read quite a bit regarding the usage of adverbs when writing fiction. Most of what I’ve read says not to use them. Period. Yet, I still see adverbs in fiction. Can we catch them all. Hmm…maybe. I think the key is to go back through during your edits and look for those and those alone and nothing else. Yes, do an edit just for searching out adverbs in your writing. When you do your initial search for them, circle them, then go back through and rework the sentences they’re in so that they aren’t there at all.

What do adverbs do that are so bad? They make the writing sound amateurish and unprofessional, they take away from any real action going on, and they take away the show out of the “show don’t tell” rule. There are better ways to say/write something.

Example 1:
(with adverb) Jason stepped lightly across the room to surprise Jill.
(without adverb) Jason tiptoed across the room to surprise Jill.

Example 2:
(with adverbs) Max’s harshly spoken words undoubtedly jumpstarted angry thoughts within Jason’s own mind.
(without adverbs) Max spat his words out.
Jason glared back at him, as angry thoughts jumpstarted within in his own mind.

After reading each example, how does each sound to you? The sentence with the adverb doesn’t do much for the reader at all. Plus, the action that should be there isn’t because the adverb throws “water on it” so to speak. But, the examples without the adverb creates more feeling, action, and pictures within the reader and makes for a better reading experience. You may have to play around with the words and create more than one sentence when you move to fix it without the adverbs. That’s ok, as long as it sounds better. Hence, the “show don’t tell” rule.


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