Adverbs, Can We Keep Them?

So many people complain about adverbs in writing.  Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing. 

[Writer’s Stuff] [About Cat Hartliebe]

Not that it’s easy to kill every adverb from your writing.  Just forget about dialogue.  You use adverbs far too often in your conversations that denying their place in writing is just nonsense. 

So when are there too many adverbs to be considered bad?  It depends.  I know, crap answer.  But what other answer is there?  Certain adverbs are pretty much useless.

Which ones?  Well the biggest one is ‘very’.  Unless you’re writing an annoying teenager or someone new to a language, you probably shouldn’t use it in dialogue either.  Very doesn’t say much.  Very big… no try gigantic or huge.  What level of very big are you saying?  The nouns can help, but I’ve heard of a very big pancake that’s about the size of a living room.  When I think very big pancake, it’s what I get at IHOP not record breaking size.  Choose an adjective without adding such a word as very.  Let very be strictly used in dialogue by certain characters because they are those types of people.  Thesauruses are useful in helping remove such a word as very; just double check definitions before use.

Besides very, there are many cases where adverbs become excess.  But they fall into a similar pitfall that very offers.  Why use ‘he ran fast’ when ‘he sprinted’ sounds stronger and explains things in a clear and concise matter?

Okay, I can see you throwing in adverbs all over the place in a first draft.  Those adverbs will really help your editing.  It’s the ‘I’ll figure it out later’ method.  That’s completely acceptable.  But it is not acceptable to have weaker verbs/adjectives and tons of adverbs in a final draft.

Sometimes, the adverb is more befitting the sentence, the mood, or the story in general.  It’s okay.  I didn’t say deny all adverbs.  Adverbs have a place in writing.  If I wrote:
Joe runs a race.
Jane runs the race, too.
Jane runs the race fast.
Joe runs the race slow.
There is importance in leaving that verb in place.  This particular use is common in children’s books and poetry, but can be used efficiently in stories written for the older age group as well.

Don’t be afraid of using adverbs as a whole.  Adverbs are useful in writing, but only if you do not overuse them.  Adverbs can weaken a sentence, but they can have purpose.

TL;DR  Exchange adverbs for a stronger verb/adjective.  Very is just a cheap scapegoat.

[Writer’s Stuff] [About Cat Hartliebe]

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