Notes from writing class - Adverbs

Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

What is an adverb?

They are a very necessary part of writing and communication; they modify other words and give us information about how, when, or where.

Though they are often scorned by critiquing groups, adverbs are not always the enemy, but that doesn’t mean you need to use them as a crutch.

Adverbs are so easy to overuse because they are a quick “go to” word. The problem is they don’t deliver a unique, vivid or comprehensive description to the reader and, because of their ease of use, they can be culprits in telling instead of showing.

Fallon glanced around the room anxiously.

In this example, I’m telling you what Fallon did and why but it’s not really as strong as it could be. When you get rid of the adverb, you have to find a stronger way to “show” what’s happening. That often means you’ll have to rewrite the sentence or look for stronger words.  By doing this, you’ll make the imagery more vivid.

Fallon shifted her weight from one foot to the other as her eyes flitted to each of the clan members faces.

Now, you can clearly see her nervous actions as well as her eye movements.

Some of the biggest culprits of adverb abuse (overuse) are Slowly & Quickly. The problem with these two is they are easy to use and they don’t really define anything. Speed is a relative thing and each person will perceive it differently. For safety sake, add those to your no-no list and "Seek and Destroy" them whenever possible. You can always come up with a better way to explain time in your manuscript.

Now, adverbs are not always words that end in –ly. Remember that above I said an adverb gives is the how, when or where?

In the first sentence, the word around is technically an adverb. It modifies the word glanced.

See how tricky those adverbs can be? They aren’t always the bad guys.  For writing purposes, just focus on the –ly’s and use them sparingly. Don’t go around trying to remove all of them; you’ll end up with something completely unreadable.


ali said…
Very well done lesson Katie! I've learned so much about adverbs since home schooling my boys, lol. I'm always excited when I finally "get" it. (because, sadly, it sometimes takes a fifth grade lesson for me to really get it, lol)
Katie S said…
I'm with you on that. Sometimes I want to tell the instructor "Tell it to me like I'm a 5 year old." LoL.