Tag Archive - adverbs

Don’t Get Frowned Upon

If you haven’t heard it by now, adverbs are often frowned upon. It’s true—a lot of beginning writers use adverbs excessively. And it does make your writing look cluttered and amateurish. Why? Because it is better writing to have the choice of words and the structure of a sentence imply the mood, emotion, or intent of what you are trying to get across. Rather than tell that someone is angry (“Go away,” he said angrily), show it (“Go away,” he said, slamming the door in her face).

If you really feel you need to tell an emotion and you just want that adverb, try rewriting so you change the adverb into a noun. Instead of “He slammed the door angrily,” write “He slammed the door in anger.” I would still leave out “anger” since slamming implies it. But if you are worried the reader might not get your emotional intent by the description alone, play around with the word you want to use.

Instead of: “I have to leave,” she said fearfully:

• “I have to leave,” she said, fearful of his response.

• “I have to leave.” Fear gripped her as she awaited his response.

• “I have to leave,” she said, knowing the fear was evident on her face.

Still better would be to leave fear out of it completely and just show your character afraid—hands shaking, voice tremulous, throat constricted. You don’t need to get neurotic and take every adverb out of your book, but try to find other, more creative ways to get the emotion across without the dreaded ly.

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