1. oterror
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    oterror Member

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    Adverbs and adjectives?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by oterror, Sep 13, 2010.

    I've read that adverbs make writing seem weak and childish. I can see that with all the "ly" words. However, I've read that adjectives do the same thing? Do you guys agree with that? should adjectives also be avoided whenever possible? does that make writing seem more professional?

    I recently read "The Murder of Roger Akroyd" and this book is LOADED with adverbs and everyone loves it including me. I did spot out the tons of adverbs but the story was still awesome..

    I'm confused, what do you guys think?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is a style question, and one we have worked over many a time here at the forum.

    This question can have only opinions as answers, so get ready for no two posts to agree, one with the next.

    If I had to cut to the quick, I would tell you that the two camps have this to say:

    No Adverbs Camp

    Adverbs don't allow you to really show the reader what you are describing. They tell the reader in one simple word that lacks color or imagination.

    We Love Adverbs Camp

    They exist. They have a place in the language! What do you mean, "Don't use them?" Poppycock!
     
  3. NyMichael20
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    NyMichael20 Member

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    I always try to avoid adverbs personally. A few years ago I read "On Writing" by Stephen King and there is a whole section in it on avoiding adverbs. I do notice that when I write a first draft, I will use a lot of adverbs and then go back and replace them with actual actions during revisions. But hey, if it works for you do it. JK Rowling uses a ton of adverbs. Look how successful Harry Potter is.
    As for adjectives, I've never heard anything negative about them. They seem inevitable to me in any story of length.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I hate any verbs that weren't really verbs until someone took a noun and stuck "-ing" on the end of it. Like "interfacing". (shudder).
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your best choice for brightening your writing is good verb choice. A well-chosen verb can avoid the need for verb modifiers, including adverbs.

    You might think the same applies to ajectives and nouns, but noun choices are harder to come by. If you do have a choice of nouns, for instance hovel instead of hut or shed or house, by all means use it and eliminate adjectives like tiny or filthy. But more often you simply cannot avoid adjectives like wooden or concrete to describe a bridge.over a creek.

    Adverbs aren't poison, but they are the weakest language element for refining a description. Actions can be enriched not only be good verb choices, but also by context. Adjectives are stronger than adverbs, and what they convey can often not be conveyed by other means. Verb choice is the strongest, but requires better mastery of language.

    It should go without saying (but obviously needs saying anyway) that you should avoid redundant modifiers. You don't need to use frigid to refine a blast of wind in a blizzard, and you certainly don't need to throw in icy and bitterly cold as well. And yet, amateur writing is laden with such redundancies,
     
  6. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    I'd say that the majority of adverbs you can remove or omit and your prose will be all the better for it. I can't recall having read anything peppered with adverbs, at least not for more than a page.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see how you could write anything with any kind of nuance, without using adjectives.

    If you wanna get rid of the adverb in the following sentence:

    "He put the spice into the soup, carefully."

    You could rewrite it as:

    "He put the spice into the soup with a gentle hand gesture."

    But then you have an adjective.

    If you wanna kill that too, you'd end up with something like:

    "He put the spice into the soup." or "He sprinkled the spice into the soup." but it doesn't really envoke the same imagery as with the adjective.

    Which is kinda lifeless, in my oppinion.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "One of the worst places to let fly with adverbs is in a dialogue tag," he said gruffly.

    It may look harmless enough in small doses, but if you make a habit of it, it is so intrusive it has its own name: Tom Swifting, after the popular series written for teen readers, infamous for such excesses.

    EDIT: He sprinkled a few grains of pepper onto the soup, and then a pinch of cumin. Perfect!
     
  9. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    He sprinkled spice into the soup.

    He dusted the soup with spice.

    He dropped a pinch of spice into the soup.

    He dropped a pinch of spice into the soup, taking care not to use too much.



    And so on.

    Adverbs, in the main, can be made redundant through good choices of vocabulary.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Funny you wrote that just as I was editing my post to add it. What I also added is that I (personally) think it envokes less imagery in the mind as a reader.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the story works with adverbs in it leave em in, if it doesn't take them out. Decide when you read it over they have their place, sometimes if you want to 'tell' the reader then they work really well. Sometimes telling allows a better lead up to a scene than showing.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's the oppinion on adverbs in dialogue itself?
    Isn't peoples speech littered with them in real life?

    "Do you really wanna do this?"

    "That was totally awesome!"
     
  13. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you sure Stephen King was so vehement against adverbs? King may rail against them all he wants but I just picked up The Stand to see if he uses them himself and the first thing I came to was this sentence:

    "'Nope,' Lloyd said, giggling nervously. 'Not a thing.'"

    Not long after, there's a sentence that goes:

    "George was shaking his head wildly..."

    "He stared thoughtfully at..."

    "Lloyd hefted the bag nervously..."

    See a pattern?

    I'm not a fan of this type of literary elitism where the self appointed masters of writing make exactly the same mistakes they preach against.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did he ever say the rules applied to himself? Masters are above rules, you know. ;)
     
  15. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does his hypocrisy not annoy you Horus?

    I think that it's wrong to impose arbitrary rules that inevitably stifle young writers. Most people will notice if there are too many adverbs in their writing. There shouldn't be such a song and dance about how bad they are.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Taste and judgment, people. It's all about taste and judgment. I'm usually (adverb!) leading the charge of the Pro-Adverb Alliance Forces, but, like anything else, they can be overused. Adverbs, more than most kinds of words, can be especially (adverb!) easily (adverb!!) overused.

    A little salt makes the dish delicious. Too much salt makes the dish inedible, and makes the cook seem incompetent.
     
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  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree. There are many such writing habits that novice writers never realize they are stuck in until it is pointed out them.
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I use adverbs more in dialogue than in the narrative. I don't like using many adverbs when I write. In most cases there are better ways to say the same thing (using a different verb or completely rewording). As for adjectives, I don't use that many in general, although this is strictly a personal preference.
     
  19. white
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    white Banned

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    The only rule that applies to dialogue is that it sound natural.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure that is even a rule, I am not sure that reading natural dialogue always works sometimes a more cartoonlike approach works really well.
     
  21. white
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    white Banned

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    Well I guess that depends on how you interpret 'natural dialgoue', because, to me, natural dialogue is dialogue that sounds like it comes from the character speaking it, so I really can't picture any circumstance where you wouldn't want the character to sound like himself.

    And it's not a rule. There aren't any rules in art.

    Except for that one.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    now that I agree with lol
     
  23. oterror
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    oterror Member

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    This is what I was talking about. The dialogue tag. It seems to make your writing seem amateurish with the adverbs in them.
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "Do as I say, not as I do."
     
  25. Horizon Noise
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    With great care, he added spice to the soup.

    Re Mr King: Stephen King doesn't actually say he doesn't use adverbs in 'On Writing', what he says is he tries to catch all he can; some slip through and some are intentional. Regardless, though, he's right, you should minimise their use.
     

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