1. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Skip adverbs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cazann34, Mar 10, 2013.

    I've read many posts where the writer quotes Stephen King's 'how to write' book advising other writers to avoid using adverbs at any cost. Some have even suggested it shows them up as amateurs. Why are adverbs so despised? Can anyone give a reason that doesn't quote Stephen King?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    You can use them sparingly...but there's usually other ways you can describe an action by just changing the word or adding more description. I actually think it's kinda lazy. The most annoying types of adverbs have got to be: he said, [insert big word no has ever heard of]-ly. That's the most horrible form of them to me.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    At this point I only know there is something to the advice, because I can tell when a sentence just isn't right or when another one is better.

    With a lot of unnecessary adverbs, what I hear reading them is best described as, enhancements that feel forced.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    'Cause using adverbs is easier than using an illustration to describe the same thing. But sometimes adverbs are the perfect thing for a sentence. Writing rules are never rules - only guidelines. Read, write, experiment, and trust in your own instincts. There'll always be people who'll slam you for this or that and others will see no problem, still others will love your work. These things also change with time - for example the commas thing, the idea that something needs to happen right away in the opening.

    No point pursuing these things - write how you feel you should and the proof is in getting published.
     
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  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    In most cases, the writing is stronger and more vibrant by using verbs and other descriptions of what is happening, rather than conveying an idea by using a more common verb and using an adverb to modify it.

    For example:
    She sighed and looked away from me. "Not for a long time," she said.
    Or
    "Not for a long time," she said sadly.

    This piece of advice is tough, because it's sharp and pithy enough for amateurs to latch onto and take as gospel. It is true that many amateur writers benefit from it to an extent, because they tend to over-use adverbs. So to a point, following the advice does make the writing stronger. However, this only works to a point. Occasionally you'll see a novice writer/critiquer assess a piece of writing and say something like, "Take this word out -- No -ly words!" But they're only doing this to follow the "rule" that they've learned without really understanding the point of the rule.

    Sometimes, adverbs really do serve their intended purpose, and are helpful in a sentence. It's just that their over-use makes the writing overly-long and wordy. It's best to simply be cognizant of how often you're using them and whether they are truly necessary.
     
  6. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I did some research and found this:

    Yes. I know I've just answered by own question but I thought it was a subject that needed clarified. The example below leaves you in no doubt why adverbs should be used sparingly.

    Axe Those Adverbs
    By Shaunna Privratsky


    quoted from http://www.absolutewrite.com

    Adverbs have a bad reputation. Writers are advised to avoid them at all costs. A manuscript peppered with adverbs immediately indicates to the editor that she's working with an amateur.


    What makes adverbs so repellent? They modify verbs in a sentence and clarify the action. Yet, using an abundance of adverbs in prose is committing the writer's worst sin: telling, not showing.


    Look at this sentence: "'What's wrong with that?' the writer asked confusedly, while scratching his head." The adverb is redundant because the phrase "scratching his head" shows the writer is confused.


    A telltale sign of an adverb is any word with a -ly ending. "Meticulously, she folded the sheet." Here the adverb comes before the verb, yet it is easily identified. No matter where the adverb is placed, it almost always modifies the verb. Nine times out of ten it is pointless-- the action will be evident from the context. "She ran swiftly through the forest." Of course she is running swiftly; if you run slowly you're trotting or jogging.


    "'Where am I?' he asked groggily, looking around blearily in confusion." Both of the adverbs are superfluous. Better: "'Where am I?' he asked, looking around in confusion."


    A precise verb doesn't need any clarification. "The parrot called angrily and beat his wings harshly against his cage." The sentence is more understandable if you choose better verbs and delete the adverbs. "The parrot squawked and whipped his wings against his cage."


    Using adverbs in dialogue is taboo. Example: "'I want you to pick up the dry cleaning,' he said dully. 'No! I won't go!' she replied furiously." Both sentences are telling the reader how to interpret the dialogue. Before too long the reader will lose interest because she isn't involved. The dialogue should be clear enough for the reader to infer the tone, as well as giving her credit for filling in the blanks. Employing a simple "he said, she said" will strengthen the dialogue and bring it alive for the reader.


    Think of the adverb as a vampire sucking the life from the verb, leaving lackluster scraps of dead letters.


    Is there a place for adverbs? Certainly. Sometimes a sentence benefits from a well-placed adverb. "The tears ran unchecked down her cheek." The adverb "unchecked" shows in a single word that she doesn't try to stop her tears from falling. "The baby whimpered sporadically, as if more bored than distressed." "Sporadically" is an acceptable adverb because it clarifies the baby's cries.


    Stephen King gives this advice in his book On Writing: "Spend adverbs sparingly, like they were $100 bills."


    An additional time you should use adverbs is when the action goes against the dialogue. For instance, I hate you,? she said sweetly. Or I know you'll make it,? he said hopelessly. Both sentences should be backed up by actions to show why the characters? tone is opposite what they are saying.


    Adverbs don't have to be the kiss of death. Actually, they can enrich your writing and transform it into a publishable manuscript. Choose prudently, axe unessential adverbs, and with a bit of luck you will sell your next submission.
     
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  7. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    The writing should give context as to how the dialogue should be said by the characters, thus rendering adverbs redundant (in theory). I personally think the rule exists to guide people towards a simpler and more mature writing style.

    Check out some Victorian writing (the Sherlock Holmes stories are probably the easiest to find online). They display the worst excesses of adverb use and will hopefully help you see why too many is a bad thing.
     
  8. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    That's an interesting piece of advice.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But you could easily show that: "I hate you," she said, with a smile and a wink.

    And "I know you'll make it," he said, rolling his eyes.

    Or, "I know you'll make it," he said, with a monotone that betrayed the lie.


    I'm not one who buys into absolutes, mind you. Surely an adverb is called for on occasion. ;)
     
  10. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Adverbs are despised because they seem lazy and don't convey the proper emotion by removing the reader from 'feeling' the experience. But if you can't see what's wrong with it, is there really something wrong with it? We all write with different styles, and if one naturally uses a lot of adverbs and it seems to work, then roll with it because that's the voice. If it seems wrong, strip out the bastards. Both can apply. The 'rules' are only guides and the work itself should dictate what works best, and that can almost be anything for anyone. One famous author says 'never use semi-colons!' while another swears by them. The proof of the writing is in the reading. That's what's going to tell you if you've used something incorrectly or to excess. If you can't tell, you really have no business writing, IMHO.

    Besides, putting on my cynical hat, using a writing guide by Stephen King is like using a cook book by Colonel Sanders. Sure, he knew what he was doing and was trained and successful, but it all depends on what you want to make, and it won't help you develop your skills in preparing traditional Chinese cuisine.
     
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  11. Revenant
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    Revenant Member

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    I don't put huge stock in the "no adverbs" rule. I mean, if you use too many of them your writing can start to feel bogged down. It takes finesse to use them right. But I find that the flow of the story dictates when adverbs work and when they don't. They don't have to be forbidden, or kept constantly in the forefront of your mind - "oh my god! I used an adverb! Stephen King's waggling his finger at me!" Nope. A sentence either works or it doesn't. It's kind of intuitive.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't take any writing rule as being an absolute. Like Mcck said they're more guidelines. Besides, there are no absolutes in writing.
    I've read too many books and seen so many rules broken and the stories have been better for it.
    Adverbs get a bad rap mainly because when you're new at writing you tend to lean on them like a crutch. It's easier to say
    said angrily rather than to weave a scene in which the writer doesn't need so telling a modifer. A scene in
    which the reader can feel the anger. Not be told about it.
     
  13. molark
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    molark Member

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    I wrote a rather bitter poem on this affair, after finding out how Raymond Carver's major editor practically scissored and rewrote his work. Then, in my daily reading, I was prepared to quote a page of Dostoevsky that had a myriad of adverbs and description adjectives. I continue such conscious reading (hard to do) recently on Annie Proulx tales. There I found, well, hardly any adverbs. Not satisfied, I search for 'suddenly' in Proulx work on Google Books (in 'Close Range' - short stories): 7-8 times (and 'quickly). The Brothers Karamazov had 'suddenly' 79 times - but of course it's possibly three times larger than Proulx. In Dostoevsky is such concoction as "said Dmitri suddenly". Proulx constructions can be seen as similar: "she shouted suddenly"... My view tends to go with those who do not see the usages as hard and fast rules. I have actually found Carver's writing minimalist, cold and boring - but I yet read him in a committed way. I can enjoy florid, rich writing. Let's check 'suddenly' in my favorite, Sherlock Holmes:

    "I suddenly heard a low whistle... she suddenly shrieked out... The door suddenly burst open... Suddenly, a horrible cry broke the silence... Only 15 times.

    Hmmm... this exercise is silly. ('quickly only appears 8 times. Let me "quickly disappeared.")
     

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