1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Hyper-Analyzing the Adverb?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jwatson, Dec 2, 2010.

    It's no secret that adverbs are frowned upon. My question is: when are they appropriate to use, and why? I'll provide an example from my work in progress.

    I have used a lot of adverbs in my novel. Now, as I go back and spend a lot of time editing and revising, I want to really minimize the use of them. So, would I keep it in a sentence like this, and why? And if not, how would I go about showing the absent-minded way Seth is speaking? Something like:

    But this, and other similar potential solutions could raise other questions, like what exactly defines an absent-minded tone?

    I may be over-thinking, but I just want to make my work as well-written as I possibly can. Any thoughts are welcome and appreciated! Please, if you suggest an alternative to the adverb, tell me why!

    J
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    "What"? Seth said with a blank smile as he stared out the window.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Absently is fine in that example. The main complaint levelled at adverbs is that they discourage writers from using more powerful or interesting verbs, but in the case of speech, it's better to use 'said' modified by an adverb than to use a distracting dialogue tag.
     
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  4. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes adverbs are fine. In your example, I think it actually works.

    But I know what you mean. I recently went through something I wrote in 2004, and the amount of adverbs I used was staggering. I've taken the majority of them out. It reads better and still makes sense.

    So I guess just go by instincts. Once you edit, go through and see if it lends something to the sentence or not. A lot of the time it should be self-evident, from the dialogue or situation, how the character is feeling etc.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Actually, forget what I said, Arron is right.

    The adverb thing just becomes a major problem when you have stuff like "He walked down the stairs slowly. The house creaked creepily. He stubbed his toe painfully in his hurry to get out after the monster under the cupboard growled menacingly." etc etc.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, mallory... those should be avoided... they're called 'swifties' after the old tom swift stories that were rife with the little buggers...
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    That's an interesting fact; I never knew! Did Tom Swift have any relation to Jonathan Swift?
     
  8. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks for the feed back. I'm just really uptight because this happens to be on the first first page of my novel! I don't want to give off the impression that I use adverbs every other paragraph... I'm definitely over thinking it, I guess I'll just play it by ear.
     
  9. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thoughts are similar to the others in that you're at risk of making your prose really clumsy in an effort to avoid picking choice adverbs. I think this is almost as much of a problem as overused adverbs.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Adverbs are perfectly all right. They got a bad reputation because some bad hack writers overused them, especially in dialogue tags, and that overuse often resulted in hilariously bad prose.

    So don't overuse them. Use them where they are appropriate, not where they aren't. And stop worrying about adverbs so much. Worry instead about writing good prose. Good prose does not equal adverb-free prose.
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, to reiterate myself and others, the "avoid adverbs" rule is one of those things that has become ingrained in the mind of far too many aspirant writers...to do away with adverbs makes about as much sense as doing away with the letter 'a'...possible, but obviously ridiculous.
     
  12. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks everyone. This actually makes me feel less pressured! Great help :)
     
  13. Celia.
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    Celia. Senior Member

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    i have nothing against adverbs, personally.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i seriously doubt it... they were centuries and an ocean apart... besides the fact that tom was a fictional character dreamt up by someone named victor appleton! ;-)
     
  15. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oh okay! haha thank you. :)
     

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