1. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    The Deal With Adverbs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ellebell16, Dec 27, 2010.

    Why is it considered taboo to write using adverbs? I'm curious. Every writing site I've been on says that using adverbs is a big no-no for writers...but why? I understand avoiding redundancies like "That was effortlessly easy" or "totally flabbergasted". But what's the deal with adverbs?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The main problem is that they're lazily used by writers when it would be better to think of a stronger verb. For instance, "ran quickly" is not as strong as "sprinted" or "dashed" or some other synonym. However, there are plenty of instances where using adverbs is preferable or even necessary, where they can reveal information more easily, or fit better tonally or structurally--just make sure that the reason you are using them is a good one.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's really just over-use and using them where another way would be better that's taboo...
     
  4. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Kind of like "lazily used" is not as strong as careless or lackadaisical.

    :)
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    (Just a minute while I put on my suit of armor and take up my weapons in defense of the much-maligned adverb. I expect to be attacked for this.)

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with adverbs. Many people, however, seem to think there is something wrong with them because they're used to reading hack prose like this:

    "Janice!" David snapped loudly. "Come here!"
    "What's the matter?" she asked quizzically.
    "The dog chewed my slippers!" he said angrily.
    "Well don't blame me," she responded reasonably.
    "What am I going to wear on my feet now?" he said hotly.
    "Shoes. Boots. Not my problem," she shot back smartly.
    "I really liked those slippers," he moaned regretfully.
    "The dog's just a pup. You should have hid your slippers," she chided gently but insistently.
    "Why can't dogs grow up faster?" he asked argumentatively and hurtfully.
    "Why can't you think before you buy a puppy?" she asked tersely, disrespectfully, but thoroughly honestly.

    Etc.

    As you can see, adverbs can be used to pad out dialogue tags, and if a writer is paid by the word, as hacks traditionally are, they're an easy way to pad the paycheck, too, without having to think much.

    Because a whole bunch of lousy prose has been written that way, it has become popular in how-to-write books to advise writers to avoid adverbs altogether. The authors of these how-to-write books clearly think that their readers are a bunch of morons who aspire to be hacks and who, if not sternly warned against it, will enthusiastically fill their pages with comically inappropriate adverbs.

    Using adverbs well is a matter of taste and judgment, like everything else in writing. Advising writers not to use adverbs is simply facile, and, if done too much, will result in hopelessly-misled students thinking that they have written perfect prose because it doesn't contain any adverbs.

    I distrust people who just say "Don't use adverbs - they're bad." They're missing the point, and all they do is confuse people.
     
  6. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Right off the bat:

    "Janice!" David snapped loudly. "Come here!"

    Doesn't the exclamation point tell us that David is saying it loudly? It seems redundant.

    I think it really makes the dialogue weak. Instead of saying "argumentatively" show us why. Maybe he has his finger pointed at the dog.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Somebody didn't read the entire post, eh?

    Agree with what's being said in general. Don't not use adverbs. Instead, look at your adverbs as ask if they're necessary.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Um, Carthonn, I wrote that as an example of BAD prose and MISUSED adverbs. Sheesh, read the whole post carefully before you jump all over it.

    EDIT: What popsicledeath said.
     
  9. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    They are used most often, and most irritatingly (<--adverb!) in dialogue:

    "Stop it!" she said pleadingly.

    My view is we use adverbs because we don't trust our readers to understand our ourselves to make the situation clear. It's over-controlling. Often affected.

    "Just try to avoid them," Elle opined annoyingly.
     
  10. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    Read On Writing By Stephen King. He goes on a whole rant about adverbs, haha.
     
  11. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    HAHA my bad. Well you did a good job. I scanned directly to the prose and was shocked by how bad it was. You definitely made your point and my reading comprehension ability is embarrassing right about now.
     
  12. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    The road to hell is paved with 'em.
     
  13. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sigh ...
     
  15. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I thought King's road to hell was paved with irony.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I just looked in King's book. He wasn't bitching about adverbs per se; his main target was what he termed "timidity". And sure, sometimes injudicious use of adverbs is a sign of timidity in writing. But he himself uses adverbs when they are called for, as any good writer will.

    Adverbs have their place. KNOW their place, and use them properly. Don't reject them just because some "how-to-write" book whose target audience is probably a bunch of undeveloped muddleheads says to reject them.
     
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  17. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    By timidity is he referencing the passive voice? If so, I'll have to agree with him 100% on that. Perhaps there is a connection between the two. I always thought the passive voice was a crutch. Overuse of adverbs could be considered a crutch too.
     
  18. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    Well, yes, he was bitching about them, per se and per paragraph. The "timid" portion of that section (which is about his two pettest peeves) is about passive/active voice. Then he moves on to his
    The two sections are not separated, he just begins a new para so it's easy to miss. But he also, like any good writer, creates a very deft segue when he says a bit further down:

    But, to make his position on the topic of adverbs clear, he goes on to say,

    He admits he is "just another ordinary sinner" and has "spilled out my share of adverbs in my time" but he goes on to make what I think is the essential point: why these two things, passive voice and adverbs, make for such bad writing....

    IMO, everyone becomes a better and more confident writer by editing out as many adverbs and passive constructions as possible.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where do you see the passive voice used in fiction?

    are you sure that's what you're referring to?
     
  20. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    True. He doesn't only talk about adverbs, but passive voice as well. Adverbs are sometimes useful, (just talking about the ones ending in -ly, of course) but most of the times it's best to avoid them.
     
  21. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I lolled, seriously.

    Voting for this as best post of 2010.
     
  22. write_star
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    write_star Member

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    I would totally agree with this. I also don't think it's totally taboo. As a writer, you know what works for you and what doesn't. If you want to write with adjectives, that's fine. Overall, I think what really matters is hooking the reader into the story and making them stay there (e.g. not wanting their attention wander). :)
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree.

    Adverbs are part of the English language. Saying you have to avoid them completely makes no more sense than saying you have to write without the letter 'y.' They're often mis-used and represent a certain laziness on the part of writers who are just beginning, and that's where the criticism comes in.
     

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