Overusing Adverbs

Most writers know that adverbs, which generally come in ‘ly’ form (swiftly, snidely, nervously), are considered the hallmark of overwritten and lazy prose, right? We’ve all heard this a lot in our writing courses and critique groups.

Adverb Clutter Writing

In theory, if you choose a strong and appropriate verb, you do not need to add an adverb, especially one that carries the same meaning as the verb. Adverbs are often tacked on to dialogue tags to describe how something was said. But good dialogue does not need props. The words should convey the emotions of the speaker by themselves. Adverbs are often an indication that the writer has a habit of telling rather than showing.

There is a strong consensus that one should use adverbs sparingly.

One rule of thumb is to use no more than one adverb per 300 words of prose. While it is a good rule of thumb, do not get bogged down in things like this while you’re writing – let your Copy Editor do that. Once, in my own writing, I did a count of ly words in a 20-page chapter and was horrified to learn that I had 18 adverbs. Cue a panic attack about my writing —at least until I realized was that each page in that chapter was 300 words and therefore I did have one adverb per 300 words—fewer in fact. But even pointing that out did not satisfy some readers. They had been hammered with the concept that all adverbs are bad adverbs.

Should writers use no adverbs?

So were the readers and editors right? It’s easy to do a search on ‘ly’ in Word and expunge every last one of them from your piece. Or, it’s even easier to use a tool like ProWritingAid. The program scours your writing and points things like this out. Sometimes when dialogue words are necessarily banal because the person is being sarcastic or lacks affect, adverbs are the only way of conveying whether the speaker is being flippant or serious.

Adverb Counts in Popular Books

Literary Fiction Results

This time the lucky literary fiction contenders included: Republic Of Dirt: A Return to Woefield Farm by Susan Juby, The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Constant Princesss by Philippa Gregory, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  Random number generator says start on page 128. I read five pages of each.
Adverb use ranged from one adverb in five pages for The Road to six for The Bishop’s Man. The average was four adverbs in five pages.
Given that the average novel page contains 250 words, this is about 1 adverb per 300 words. The adverbs were most often used to modify ‘said’.

Genre Fiction Results

Genre fiction contenders included The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon, Hot Six by Janet Evanovich, Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts and How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny. I did the same thing as with the literary fiction books—started on page 128 and read five pages.
Adverb use ranged from one adverb in five pages in Chesapeake Blue to nine in How the Light Gets In. The average was six adverbs in five pages. So a bit higher than in the literary fiction novels. These adverbs were utilized most commonly in dialogue.

Conclusion

Writers use adverbs to add color to their writing and reflect how people actually speak—and people occasionally use adverbs.

Although it is helpful to reduce the use of adverbs, it’s not necessary to strip them entirely from your writing.

I am still conscious of ‘ly’ words in my own writing as part of my editing process, and consider stronger verbs as alternatives. However don’t listen to critiquers who tell you that they are forbidden and don’t be haunted by the occasional use of an adverb.

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Writing Improvement Software

What is Copy Editing?

Copy editors are the surgeons of the English language: we edit your book or blog’s text, otherwise known as “copy.” Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, populist or academic, erotic or sci-fi, copy editors help turn your book into the best, most readable version it can be.

We can make sure that your copy isn’t full of bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or blatant inconsistencies. We won’t get into the “big-ticket” things like characterization, plot or pacing; instead we will go through your text line by line and focus on the little things.

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Can’t Get It Out of my Head

I used to love the movie Cold Mountain. Like, watch it 3 times a day, love.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it now, though.  But I woke up with this closing monologue running on loop through my head.

It won’t stop!

moan I should

Ugliest

I’m not politically correct and I’m not a serene type of person.  I feel things strongly and it shows.  I am quick to state my opinions and am usually too stubborn to change them out loud (even if I am wrong in the end).  But, I’m not an asshole, on purpose.

“That’s the ugliest…”

I was thinking about the word and its context in the world today.  I’m not entirely sure that it has a place anymore.  In a time when everything can be researched and quantified, ugliest is just too speculative.  Who has time for speculation anymore?

What type of person are you if you’re willing to assign that adjective to a person?

skirt-vintage-mean-girls

I repeat, I am guilty of this too.  This post is probably directed more at myself than anyone else.  But, instead of ugliest, what if,

“That guy just isn’t my type.”

or

“I wouldn’t wear that, but you do you.”

It comes down to being less of a judge and more of the jury.  Be a peer.  Recognize that most people are just trying to get through the day like you. Like me.

So the next time you feel that comment bursting out, picture this puppy, The Ugliest Dog in 2018.

ct-ugliest-dog-contest-winner-gallery-20180623(Who’s a pretty puppy?)

She may not be pretty, she might not be a Dogster Magazine cover dog, but you would love on her all the same.

WTF, Pandora?

Y’all. So, I’m off work on Sundays and Mondays.  I’m doing a writing weekend and I’ve already added about 15,000 words to my novel. Yay, me!

I usually play the Pandora station, Classical for Studying, through my Apple TV and surround sound while I write because it helps keep my head clear.

Anyway, I’m sitting here just chugging along and the music is going – and from the rear speaker behind me it sounds like someone whispers in my ear!

Y’all, I flipped. My dog is back there. Did he just learn how to talk?! Anyway, I looked up the song that was playing and it’s from a piano album named Whisperings. 

Classical music shouldn’t whisper at you!

So, this post was just to say that Pandora, David Nevue – you fucked up my mojo, yo.

Sloth-Meme-Whisper-22

Very Excited – Updates

This morning, when I am so tired before work, @debharkness and @badwolf_tv are giving me life with this new US @ADiscoveryofWitchTV trailer (YouTube). I cannot wait!

I’m sad that I can’t upload the video here, ’cause I don’t have the @Wordpress Business Plan, Y’all.

Also, I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me regarding my post Tear the House Down.  The outpouring of support was surprising to me.  I think I am finally beginning to understand the full reach of this platform and all social media. So, to those who reached out from the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, India, Romania, and Australia, thank you. 

Another shameless plug! Don’t forget to check out the first three chapters of my new novel, Stopped Short. Available November 1st on Amazon and iTunes. 🤗

In terms of what is happening today in the U.S., I feel the same as I did on our last Presidential election day – I hope, but I am resigned.  I fear the repercussion of today’s confirmation vote of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  To women everywhere, I’m sorry we failed you.

To my gays – we gotta stick together, too.

This is not a political website and I don’t intend to do this often, but Dr. Cristine Blasey Ford – I believe you.

In case you missed it – here is Amy Schumer being arrested along with 300 others during a protest at the Capitol.

DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE!

Ending on a positive note – Today in the U.S., it is National Orange Wine Day! Get you some orange wine!

Have a great Saturday ❤️