Adverbs. Possibly the most maligned part of speech.
Stephen King famously said, "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs." But why does everyone hate them so much?
Because most adverbs are unnecessary. They're sentence clutter, and usually indicate places where the writing could be stronger.
Now, before we dive into the mechanics, I'd like to clarify: like most other writing "rules," this isn't an absolute. You're still allowed to use adverbs. Just use them sparingly. In fact, in the King quote linked above, he used eight adverbs in discussing why adverbs are so bad (not counting the ones he used as examples).
Why are adverbs often a sign of weak writing? Take a look at these examples:
#1: "Coffee, black," he said brusquely.
#2: The child skipped happily around the playground.
#3: She quickly ran from her car to the building.
#1. This isn't bad, but it could be better. Instead of using a boring verb plus an adverb, I could pick a better verb:
"Coffee, black," he snapped.
Or I could use an action to show the man's mood:
"Coffee, black." He rapped his knuckles on the counter while the waitress fumbled to make the right change.
"Keep the pennies, just get my drink already!"
This second method results in more words, but it works to create a mini-scene. Depending on how much weight you want to give to an event, you can spend less time on it (with stronger verbs) or more time (with actions and showing).
#2. Part of the problem with this one is that "happily" is, presumably, redundant. "Skipping" implies a happy mood, unless the scene has demonstrated otherwise. So this adverb can be cut out altogether:
The child skipped around the playground.
Or I could add body language or some other type of showing to demonstrate the mood instead:
The child skipped around the playground. A grin spread over his face as he skipped faster and faster, the wind rushing past him like he might fly away in between a step and a hop.
#3: This is another redundant adverb. Running is already quick. Again, this passage would be stronger either by removing the adverb or by showing why she's running:
She ran from her car to the building, holding an old grocery bag over her head to keep off as much of the rain as possible.
So when you're editing and looking for adverbs, think about if the adverb is necessary. Is it adding any new information to the sentence/scene? Does that information change how the reader views the scene? If it new and important, would the sentence be stronger by choosing a different verb or by using showing techniques instead?
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