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.


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


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?


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.”


“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.

Stopped Short – A Baseball Romance – Chapter 2



Damnit.  It was her. Sophie is here but I know that Garrett is still playing in Chicago.  I wonder what happened there.

I finally manage to get myself out of that damn coffee shop.  The group of people had grown larger than I was comfortable with.  I hopped into the first cab I could hail and just told him to get me the hell out of there.  We were headed in the wrong direction, but I didn’t care.

I thought back to the first time I saw Sophie.

♦ ♦ ♦

I was still playing for one of the Chicago Cubs’ B-teams in Iowa City.  They had flown me out to Chicago to prospect me.  I was too good for the minors and they knew it, too.  They might have called it a dinner, but we all knew what it was – a job interview.  My table of ten had a couple other prospects and some players.  One of them was Garrett Watkins.  He was drafted right out of college at Duke and put on the field as a pitcher the next season.

The guy had an arm.

The guy was a douche.

I know, I know.  I was supposed to be networking; kissing asses. They knew my stats.  What the hell else matters?

What I remember from that night, was her.  She just sat quietly, observed everything and everyone.  While she looked small and meek, I could tell she was anything but. And that dress she had on – fuck. She would get up from the table every once in a while.  I looked forward to those moments all night long.

She’d go to push her seat back, her hair would spill forward, and she’d give me a look down the top of her dress at those perfect tits.  Then she’d walk away and give me a view of that perfect ass.  That she wasn’t a bottle bleached, stick figure definitely got me going.

She had me hard and she hadn’t even said a word to me after sitting down. I couldn’t get up from the table all night.

And who didn’t look her way? Garrett.  What the hell was she doing with this guy? I was pissed forher.  I spent the whole night in a silent rage.  Snapping at everybody and every question.  I must’ve done one thing right, though because I left with a contract.

And blue balls.

♦ ♦ ♦

“Hey buddy, the meters already at 20 bucks.  You wanna tell me where we’re goin’?”

“Safeco. Players’ entrance.”

The driver gives me a dubious look.  Not a baseball fan, then.

As workplaces go – this place is a fucking dream.  Seattle is a great place to live and the team is great.  It’s the off-season so a lot of the guys are at their houses out of the city.  I only have my loft.  Alright, alright.  It’s a big loft.

We pull up outside the players’ entrance and the cabbie turns around.  “You’re on the team?”

“Yeah, last season was my first here. This year I’ll be starting shortstop.”

“No kidding! – I don’t keep up on baseball, but my kid does.” He pulls out a receipt book and a pen.  “You wouldn’t mind, would ya?”

I take the pad in hand sign my name and jersey number – #27. It’s the same as my age so it’s easy to remember.  I reach for my wallet but the cabbie waves me off.

“Thanks for the autograph – my kid is gonna go nuts.”

Standing outside the door is my best friend and teammate, Erik Watkins.  He started here a year before I did and he took me under his wing when I got here.

“You were supposed to be here an hour ago.  You know I gotta get home to Eva and the baby.”

This guy has it bad.

I thought he had it back when I got here and met his then fiancé, Eva. She’s awesome.  All fiery Latina and, “¡Será mejor que estés comiendo o tendré que empezar a enviarte comida!” And she did, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Then came Ana.  She’s just a couple months old now and she has the best godfather anyone could hope for.

Me, I meant me.

But Erik.  He’s doing what I imagine any first-time dad would do – panicking if he’s away for more than five minutes.

We head through the door and walk towards the gym.  I’m young to be a starter on the team and I gotta keep up in the off-season or risk getting replaced come February.  We get to the weights and I pat Erik on his stomach, “ Getting that dad bod already?”

“Fuck off.  Let’s do this.”

We go hard.  An hour and a half later and he’s almost to the door as I’m stepping on the treadmill to finish off with some cardio.

“Hey, you ok?  You seem off.”

“Yea, man. I’m good. Just have some shit on my mind.”

“Alright.  Let me know if you need anything.  Don’t forgot you promised Eva you’d come for dinner this week.”

“Like I’d miss seeing Eva and my goddaughter,” I smirk.

He gives me a little wave and he’s out the door.  I put my earbuds in and step on to the moving treadmill.  My mind wanders to Sophia.  I know she heard me call for her. She paused without turning just before walking out of the coffee shop.

Did she not see me?  Did she not care?  I know she thought she loved Garrett.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I did before I left Chicago.

Maybe I should have stayed.


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– Kevin Ethan

I Can’t Believe



Sophie sits in a coffee shop in Wrigleyville with the same thought running through her head,

“I can’t believe..”

Not just once, but over and over in the way that the inflection of it means a completely different thing.  I can’t believe how much I love him.  I can’t believe I moved here with him.  I can’t believe it’s over.

And fuck was it over.

Sophie met Eric 4 years ago when she was a junior at Duke University in Durham.  One of her best friends and roommate, Nicole, introduced them.  Sophie was business advertising major and he was a senior studying sports medicine.  Eric got an internship with one of the big Chicago teams and after Sophie graduated she moved there to be with him.

Of course she had.

She loved him.

She had scored a great job for anyone right out of college; even if she did graduate with honors.  They found an amazing apartment together and she had friends within months of getting to town.  Her best friend Nichole was nearby, too, doing her graduate work at Northwestern.  He seemed happy at work and with their life together.  She thought he might propose.  But then he started traveling with the team.  She started working late on big, career changing ad campaigns. He would go out for drinks with some guys from the the team.  He would come in so late it was the next morning – always freshly showered.  He would say that he stopped by the gym on the way home.  Too much extra energy.

She became suspicious.  Bitter.  She knew it was one of the cheerleaders.  Or, the groupies that always hang out around the team.  They were the reason why he hadn’t touched her in months.  Not because she worked late and was becoming successful on her own.

Now, she sat in the coffee shop.  She thought on the night before when she managed to get home early… for once.  She caught the train home.  She got an empty elevator up to the floor where they had their home together.  She opened the door and walked in.

I can’t believe…

I can’t believe…



I can’t believe it was Nicole.