1. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Avoiding the -ly's

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by guamyankee, Feb 16, 2011.

    I've heard people talk about avoiding descriptors that end with -ly, such as, cautiously, quickly, etc...

    How steadfast should I be about this? If I throw in the occasional -ly, is this a bad thing?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Occationally, like once per page. No bigge.

    Occationally as once per paragraph and more... Well. Then you got a problem.
     
  3. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I think I use it less than once per page. When I get to my second revision, I'm going to switch over from Pages to Word, and do a *ly search, just to check.

    Thanks, I am eternally grateful.

    Get it? :)
     
  4. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    That may depend on who you are I think. Dean Koontz doesn't mind using them, and Stephen King said... what -ly rule? :D
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It also a matter of how you use it. At times it a part of really bad description, other times is a reflection on how we use the language in every day life.

    "He walked quickly." Is the thing people say and think each and every day.

    "She looked at me, and handed me the card artfully" Is cheesy overuse of -ly worlds

    "I'm eternally grateful" is just a weaker sentence then "I'm grateful."
     
  6. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Ha ha. Well, I aint either one, so I'll stick to the rules best I can for now. :)
    Remember the days when Stephen King was good?
     
  7. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Right.

    "He walked quickly." = Not bad
    "He quickly walked through the park." = bad
     
  8. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I took a look at a sample page, and it appears that I use the -ly's more than I thought. Gonna have to keep an eye on that.
     
  9. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    The spirit of the 'rule' is much the same as 'show-don't-tell' it's meant to keep us focued on the strength of the sentence which always resides in the nouns and verbs. Modifiers sap the strength of the nouns and verbs, in most cases. The rule exists to keep our awareness sharp.
     
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  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how you use them is just as important as how often...

    so use them sparely and use them well ...
     
  11. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    The first time I ever saw "ollie ollie oxen free" or "heigh nonny nonny" written down, as part of an intentional literary effort, I was startled-- these were phrases I strictly knew as vocal chants, I don't think I'd ever seen them before or would have known, offhand, how they were supposed to be spelt.

    So I think as long as you're composing your story in a manner where the descriptions come out of some organic dreamscape, you're fine-- you can leave alot out and still tell the story. "He walked through the park. He found himself running." Alot of those -ly words are implied and don't need to be mentioned explicitly.
     
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  12. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I think it is important that you know why you should avoid -ly words (they are adverbs btw, in case you are not sure) before you delete every one of them in your draft.

    It is considered a lazy way of writing, because if you think a little harder there is always a verb which can be used avoiding the -ly adverb. Why verbs? (in case you are wondering) Because verbs are actions which makes your sentences alive, if you will. Also, when you use adverbs you end up "telling" instead of "showing".

    But adverbs are legitimate English words and they do add something to your sentences. So, when you find a -ly word, try to rephrase the sentence using suitable verbs (make it more than one sentence if need be as in the above joelpatterson's example). If you feel that keeping the adverb is the best way of conveying your idea, then keep it. When you do it this way you will find that there is definite reductions in your use of -ly words. I am with mammamia: how you use them is just as important as how often...
     
  13. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some are fine I think.

    A lot of these can be ruthlessly cut in editing though - I didn't realise that quite a few slipped through in my first draft. Now it reads much better with most of them gone. :)
     
  14. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    They're gonna be toast in my second revision.
     
  15. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I agree with you, Manav. My 'rules':

    1. Use a better verb to describe what you want to express gets preference. [The water came slowly through pores in the wall ->> water seeped through the wall]. For me as non-native English my lack of vocabulary can be tricky.

    2. Where the action is clear and a -ly word adds no value, leave it out.

    However, sometimes you need to use a ~ly word to be more accurate. [He corrected himself hastily] shows he became suddenly aware he made an error. If that's what you want to convey, it's better than a simple [he corrected] as this says little of the state of mind of the person who corrected.

    3. [When in doubt, leave it out. Less is more.]
     
  16. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points Leonardo. (Where are you from?)
     
  17. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never seen that Stephen King quote, and I would be a little surprised if he said it. He did famously say The road to Hell is paved with adverbs, meaning that he cautions against their over-use.

    I personally think that it's all too easy to get hung up on such issues. Just write to the best of your ability. If you're talented, it will ultimately shine through. :)
     
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  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is my view - use the right word for the right place. Sometimes that is an adverb, sometimes it isn't. I went back over mine, went five pages without using one, then used 3 in one scene. It is a teen seducing another one - there is a hell of a difference between just whisper in his ear and whispering seductively - or touching him softly and just touching him etc. And there are very different types of kisses that can lead to more. With it being a teen scene for a YA I don't want it too flowery or graphic and adverbs get round that.

    Not about to start repenting - they work in certain places.
     
  19. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Elgaisma, would you mind sharing that sentence? I'd be curious to hear what people have to say about it, and how they would rewrite it if they still feel it's a blatant -ly rule violator.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here are the three sentences they form part of a 1000 word scene and are spread right through it one at the very beginning, the other in the middle and the other right at the end - (also I write first person present tense, adverbs allow me to remove and move the Is around so they don't intrude):

    Placing my arm round her I pull her in closer and kiss her gently on her blossom scented hair. (i'm not being overly flowery they are in an atrium and she has just brushed up against a tree).

    She whispers seductively in my ear, 'You ain't gonna need pjs tonight big boy. My Dad gave me a massage book, reckon I can help your feel better.'

    She stands on tiptoes, kisses my cheek softly and says, 'Welcome to my room.' Bea makes eye contact ... (Bea has hypnotic eyes).
     
  21. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I think you could take all 3 of those out and the sentences would be just as powerful, maybe more so.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    maybe but I don't want it more powerful - I want to keep it more innocent and a little detached and awkward. They are both seventeen, had a hell of a few days and it is only the second time they have had sex.

    Adverbs allow me to give it a slightly more clumsy feel than if I was writing a sex scene between my two more experienced hot for each other males. I want the soft, gentle feel emphasised heavily in contrast to the previous days.

    This is a young adult and personally I am uncomfortable making it too passionate. They allow me to achieve my goals with the scene.

    I have used 3 adverbs in about 20,000 words so I certainly don't abuse them. For me part of writing is about controlling how the scene reads.
     
  23. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just work around it like, "in a seductive way" if I can't be bothered. :p

    Though, of course, there are better ways of doing it. :D I've just been sick for like 2 months straight with flu then tonsilitis then tonsilitis again, so my editing has been lax of late...
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For a proper grown up adult sex scene I would in fact I would show rather than tell the seduction, having spent six months in a chatroom with very experienced romance and erotica writers I can now do sex scenes of all varieties.

    However this isn't Socrates ripping Nate's clothes off and throwing him against a wall - the animal taking over and grabbing various parts.

    It's Angus who feels nervous about being naked and his bossy new wife Bea. He's not wanting the reader too intrude to deeply, and by this stage my reader should know that. They already know his awkwardness, they know how he felt when he walked naked into his bedroom and she was standing there. He is telling the story - he doesn't want them involved and if I have written the previous scenes correctly I think the reader should feel uncomfortable being too involved. Whereas Socrates wouldn't notice the reader if he had his hands on Nate.

    Also this scene ends at the door of the bedroom - it gets interrupted imagine getting involved - personally I am not overly keen when sex gets interrupted in real life, so I don't want the reader too deep into a scene where I am going to leave them unsatisfied :)
     
  25. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I so am going to use this in a sex scene of my own now. :D
     

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