“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King
In the writing world, adverbs have a bad reputation for being weak and causing unnecessary clutter. But sometimes adverbs are necessary, and other times, they liven up a sentence or strengthen a description.
Today we’re going to explore adverbs and take a look at why they can be problematic and when they are essential.
Let’s start with a basic overview:
Adjectives and adverbs are modifiers. Adjectives modify nouns whereas adverbs modify verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, phrases, and clauses. In fact, an adverb can modify an entire sentence. This gives adverbs a rather large playing field; maybe that explains why they are overused.
For example, car is a noun and red is an adjective. Put them together and you get a red car. The word run is a verb and the word quickly is an adverb. Put them together and you get run quickly.
But run quickly is better stated as sprint.
There are plenty of adverb-verb combinations that are best expressed with a single, more meaningful verb. For example, “driving fast” becomes “speeding.”
Why Adverbs Are Weak and How They Weaken Your Writing
Here’s a massive list of adverbs. The vast majority of them end in -ly, and these are among the most worthless adverbs, although they are often cited as examples to demonstrate how adverbs work. Ask someone how to identify an adverb and they’ll either tell you it modifies a verb or it’s one of those words that ends in -ly.
Why are adverbs that end in -ly so awful? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look at an example sentence:
“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked flirtatiously.
It’s a horrid sentence. The adverb flirtatiously tells the reader how she asked the question, when instead it should show how she asked:
“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
It may not be the greatest sentence ever written, but showing the character batting her eyelashes is a lot better than telling readers she asked a question flirtatiously. Visual cues show readers what’s happening; adverbs tell them. And we want to show what’s happening whenever possible to make our writing more vivid and easier to visualize.
Most adverbs either tell us what we already know or use too many words to communicate an image or idea. Let’s look at an adverb that modifies an adjective:
It’s a very warm day.
Once we write that a day is warm, does it being very warm change the day in the reader’s mind? The word very does nothing other than intensify the word that follows it, and it does so poorly. Often, the word very and the word it modifies can both be eliminated and replaced with a single word that is more precise:
It’s a hot day.
In this sentence, we don’t need the word very or the word warm. The word hot does the job. It’s clearer and more concise, which is the mark of strong writing.
How to Avoid Adverbs or Use Them Wisely
“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” ~ Mark Twain
I’m always on the lookout for unnecessary words in my own writing. I find that seeking out adverbs is a good way to find words I can cut to tighten my prose. I may not catch them all, but I sure try. Here are some guidelines I apply when dealing with adverbs:
- Don’t be lazy. Choosing the right word is never a waste of time.
- Stay away from adverbs that state the obvious. One does not scream loudly because by definition, screaming is done loudly.
- If a sentence is too short, don’t add a bunch of adverbs (or adjectives) to make it longer.
- Train your eye to catch adverbs when you’re editing and proofreading.
- When you spot an adverb, ask whether it’s the best word choice.
- Use an adverb if it’s necessary and you can’t convey the same meaning without it.
- Avoid vague or non-descriptive adverbs. Ask whether the adverb tells the reader something that you can show through imagery and description.
- Don’t use an adverb as a crutch for a verb (or any other word). Look for a better verb. If necessary, write a better sentence.
- Sometimes when you eliminate a single adverb, you need to replace it with several words. It took three words (batting her eyelashes) to replace one adverb (flirtatiously), but the sentence became clearer and more vivid.
- Don’t be redundant. One does not stealthily creep because to creep is “to move with stealth.”
- When you do use adverbs, use them intentionally and with purpose.
- Make it a goal to never use the words very or really.
Are You Overusing Adverbs?
Here’s an exercise you can do to avoid adverbs in your writing:
Dig through your writing and find a final draft that has been edited and proofread. Go through and highlight every adverb. Ask a friend to check it and see if you missed any. How many adverbs did you find? How many adverbs were there per 100 words? Per 1000? Remove each adverb and ask whether doing so changes the meaning of the sentence. If it does change the meaning, then rewrite the sentence without the adverb. Now compare the original sentences with the adverbs intact to the new sentences that don’t include any adverbs. Which ones are better?
When is it okay to use an adverb? When you must. Here are some examples of sentences that use adverbs well (the adverbs are italicized):
Congress recently passed a new law.
She entered the room silently.
He drives a dark green sedan.
As you can see, sometimes we need adverbs. We just need to use them sparingly.
Are you attuned to how you use adverbs in your writing? Have you ever visited an old piece of writing and found it littered with unnecessary words? Do you have any writing tips to help other writers avoid adverbs or use adverbs wisely? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.
In the example “dark green sedan” is “dark” not an adjective?
In the example, green is an adjective because it modifies the noun sedan. Since the word dark modifies the adjective green, it is an adverb (adverbs modify adjectives). Adjectives modify nouns and noun phrases; they cannot modify other adjectives.
I want to buy a beautiful, new, blue, European car.
Which ones are adverbs?
“Dark” doesn’t appear in any of my dictionaries as an adverb, only noun and adjective..
In your example sentence, the following words are adjectives: beautiful, new, blue, European. Every one of these words modifies the noun “car.” The verb phrase in your sentence is “want to buy” and there are no words that modify it. There are also no words that modify any of the adjectives in your sentence. Therefore, there are no adverbs in the sentence.
Adjectives modify nouns and noun phrases. There are no exceptions where an adjective modifies a verb or another adjective. One could argue that in the phrase “dark green sedan,” dark and green modify the noun sedan and are therefore both adjectives. It’s just as feasible to argue that “dark green” is a phrase comprised of the adjective “green” and its modifier/adverb “dark.”
Basically, if dark modifies green, then it must be an adverb because only an adverb can modify an adjective. My own dictionary says dark is an adjective in the phrase “dark brown” but in the context it provides, brown is a noun, not an adjective (“a dark brown”).
This one’s probably an argument for the ages. I would say both arguments are valid.
Dark is an adjective.
Hi Katy. While dark is usually an adjective, it can also be an adverb. Adverbs are words that usually modify verbs, but they are also words that modify adjectives. If green is an adjective and dark modifies it, then in that context, dark is an adverb.
Dark as an adjective: It’s a dark night. [Dark is an adjective that modifies the noun night.]
Dark as an adverb: The leaves are dark green. [Dark is an adverb that modifies the adjective green.]
Hope that helps.
I try really hard not to use adverbs very often, but I frequently find myself repeatedly using them in nearly everything I write. It’s difficult to break the habit, but I’m doing my best. Conciseness is, to me, the hardest part of writing. I do tend to pontificate. Thanks for reminding me that I should trim it down a little.
It takes some practice and discipline, but it can be done! Good luck to you, Bob.
This information is golden. I discovered I am an “adverb addict” and tend to use the words so often I could cut half the time out of my papers by getting straight to the point, just in eliminating adverbs.
I think most of us have words that we use too frequently. Every so often, I notice some filler word that I use and I have to make a concentrated effort to edit it out and break the habit.
Firstly, please forgive my poor writing. English isn’t my main language.
Wow! I’m editing and rewriting my Nanowrimo’s draft at the moment and I can say that your post is what I needed.
A lot of my sentences sounded weird or weak and I didn’t knew how to fixed them. After reading your post, I realized what I had to do.
So a thousand time thank you!
I would add that the advice in this post can be applied to all words, not just adverbs. It’s always a good idea to go through and delete any words that are unnecessary.
I have often thought that the best writing advice is the header to Strunk and White’s Element #13, “Omit needless words.”
Every adverb is fine to use if it’s necessary. Very few of them are.
Well said, Gregory!
I have been doing the same with my NaNoWriMo editing. Cutting out words is quickly making my 50,000 words about 30,000! Thanks for the article. I needed to read this.
Cutting words is hard, but it feels good to see the prose become tighter and more concise.
Great article! Confession: until recently I had no idea how hated adverbs are. Once I realized it though, it was one of those “ah ha” moments where things began to make sense. Great lesson.
I don’t know if they’re hated. I think people might cringe at them a little. I would liken them to clutter.
I have a theory that perhaps we use adverbs so much because we were saying (or writing) the sentences before we finished gathering all our thoughts. For example, she ran quickly. The first idea that came to mind was that it was a she. And then she was running. And then we decided that the way she ran was quick, so she ran quickly. If I had said “she quickly ran”, I was probably thinking that she had to be moving quickly, and to accomplish the task of moving quickly, what she had to do is run.
I agree. Our thoughts and speech are littered with excess words (verbiage), which leak into our writing. And that is what editing is for!
I for one am not afraid of the English language or using adverbs to help describe things or move things along. If I want to use an adverb, I’ll use it. Same with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and so on.
I’m not afraid. And I simply don’t care what the “experts” think or say. They aren’t the ones writing my books. I am.
So I’ll use whatever gets the job done. And if there’s a ton of adverbs, verbs, adjectives, and whatnot in it…?
My books. My rules. Get used to it.
Alrighty then. Good luck with that.
She entered the room silently. :: “She crept into the room without making a sound.” See? Even that sentence could be rewritten without the adverb. 🙂
I had the rule pounded into my brain so much that as soon as my fingers type “ly” they move to the “backspace” key. An adverb will remain if I can think of no other way to convey the action to the reader. Or, of course, it’s being used in dialogue because I want my character’s speech to come across as natural as possible.
Hi Paul. You did indeed rewrite the sentence without the adverb, but it’s been replaced with an adverbial phrase (which is really just a long adverb). In the interest of concise writing, I would probably opt for a single adverb over an adverbial phrase, but there would be times when the phrase would preferable, especially if it includes a simile or metaphor that evokes an image. Having said that, I love how attuned you are to adverbs and trying to weed them out!
Umm… “She crept into the room.”? 😉
I would say that her silence is implied in that sentence.
Great article! Made so much sense to me. Thanks Melissa!
I have just written a 250,000-word 1st draft epic fantasy trilogy and am now into editing as a 2nd draft.
I used Scrivener to write it and now ProWritingAid to edit.
Will repeat this process a few times.
I don’t really have much formal education so writing is instinctive for me and tends toward poetry.
With the help of ProWritingAid, I am beginning, that education. It jumped all over me for excessive use of adverbs in my 1st draft which I didn’t understand, so I looked it up and found your blog.
It has helped a great deal.
Before this knowledge, I operated on instinct to feel my way through writing.
Now I will see problems much quicker. Seeing them in a hard editorial light is good.
I hope I don’t lose that feel as I learn the rules though; it is a big part of my creativity.
I have little knowledge of Gramma yet I recognise the rules (gramma) as patterns in my understanding of words. Almost like music. I hope to make them work together.
Thank you very much.
I believe you meant grammar, and you’re right–they are rules and can be likened to patterns. I don’t think I’ve ever come across this idea that grammar could be akin to music, but I think it has some merit…something to think about. Keep writing!
The cadence of the words is like the rhythm in music.
Thanks Melissa. Whenever I read old-fashioned girls school stories – I still love them – I find myself noticing how nobody ever just says something, it’s always impatiently, crossly, furiously, bitterly, hesitantly etc. I think I liked it as a child, but it definitely sounds strange to the modern reader!
To the modern lazy reader, perhaps. Enid Blyton is as popular as ever with children, who enjoy those extra descriptors;
I’ve become much better at omitting adverb as I continue my learning curve as a writer. And with the help of Grammarly and Hemmingway. I noe am (usually) within their limits.
Thank you for this post, and your replies to your other commentors. I am now clearer on adverbial phrases, and adverbs that modify adjectives, which I didn’t know before.
I’m afraid I always take up the cudgels in favour of adverbs, Even the ‘-ly’ ones add, to my mind, to the general effectiveness of sentences and the pictures they present. It becomes cumbersome if they are always replaced by a description of the action indicating how it was carried out. If they are simply omitted, one might as well aim for leaving out adjectives as well, for the full ‘fast food’ effect in writing.
Admittedly, ‘very’ is a dangerous deathtrap, but even that has its uses when applied sparingly.
Stephen King is a fine writer but he id advising on how to write like him. English is about style as well as content and short, sharp sentences are not always appropriate. They are apt if describing fast action, but if the story is about a lazy sunny day then adverbs, adjectives, metaphors are appropriate. There is no one style any more than there is only one genre.
Hi Barb, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Stephen King isn’t advising on how to write like he writes; he is advising on how to write well, and his quote should be taken as hyperbole. I don’t think he meant to suggest that adverbs should (literally) never be used. Rather, he’s issuing a reminder that they should be used judiciously because adverbs are often weak or unnecessary. There are certainly times when we need to use them, but sloppy verbiage is often peppered with unnecessary modifiers, and adverbs are foremost among them.
“Live fearless.” That is a recommendation I hear frequently over a news station in the area where I live. The “ly” has been cut from the word “fearless.” Somehow this grammatical revision sounds wrong to me. What is your opinion?
It should be “live fearlessly” or “fearless life.” However, I think when we’re dealing with slogans, mottos, tag lines, and slang, people play with language and bend or break the rules. It’s also possible that whoever is using this phrase simply doesn’t know that it’s technically incorrect.
I’m also with the pro-adverb crowd. Adverbs are a tool, and like any tool, they can be used to great effect or used very badly. Omitting them from dialogue is always a bad choice, since people don’t talk that way, and it makes it sound unnatural. But by the same token, I feel that omitting them from writing can sometimes make the prose sound equally stilted.
The idea behind “adverbs are bad” comes from the broader advice to “show, don’t tell”, but even that advice is often oversimplified. I think better advice would be to control your pacing and descriptiveness, and make sure they’re accomplishing what you want them to accomplish. You can spend ten pages “showing” what someone ate for dinner, but if dinner isn’t your focus, then maybe you should just “tell” the reader that “Joe ate dinner quickly” and move on. Sure, you could rewrite that without an adverb, perhaps using something as simple as “Joe ate a quick dinner”, but then you run into adjective confusion. Did the dinner get up off the plate and run away? Ultimately, you’re saying the same thing either way, but avoiding an adverb there is pointless. There are other ways you could word it as well, but those add unimportant details. Who cares, for example, if he ate dinner in “five minutes”? Why are we timing his dinner eating? It’s not relevant. If you need more body or flavour text there, then by all means, add detail as appropriate, but don’t do so if it would detract from your focus. Longer or more vivid is not always better (all the more so in short-story writing).
So, in the end, I utterly reject the advice to “avoid adverbs”. Instead, I advise saying what you want to say in the way that makes the most sense for the style and pacing of what you’re writing. The rest will flow from that naturally without needing to fall back on pithy advice that doesn’t really capture the larger context, and discourages the art/craft of writing. To me, telling a writer to “avoid adverbs” is like telling a painter to “avoid red”.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. As with most writing advice, the idea that “adverbs are bad” is somewhat hyperbolic, not meant to be taken literally. The post above explains that adverbs aren’t inherently bad, but many accomplished writers agree that as a method for strengthening a piece of writing, hunting for adverbs and replacing them with richer language is often a useful technique during edits. If you don’t mind, I’ll use your example sentence to demonstrate what I mean.
You’ve said not only that adverbs are fine but also that there are times we should tell rather than show. I agree — adverbs are fine when they are the best option for conveying a particular idea, and there are times, particularly during exposition, when we tell rather than show. But with something like “Joe ate dinner quickly,” I think there are a few problems. First, sentences tend to flow better when adverbs are placed as close as possible to the verbs they modify: “Joe quickly ate dinner.”
Now, of course, the way the sentence strikes a reader will be subjective. Some readers will prefer the original; others will prefer the revision. But let’s see if we can pack more punch into this sentence. We usually opt for showing over telling because showing paints a picture in the reader’s mind, and when they visualize what’s happening, the text holds their attention and is more memorable. We don’t have to turn Joe’s dinner into an entire scene or even an entire paragraph. We can often replace an adverb and its corresponding verb with a single word that has more meaning and is more vivid:
Joe devoured dinner.
We can go even further with showing (vs. telling): Joe devoured a pizza. (Of course, pizza can be replaced with any meal).
Now, this is all subjective. So any reader might personally prefer “Joe ate dinner quickly” to “Joe devoured a pizza.”
The best thing about all of this is that each writer gets to make their own determination about which bits of writing guidance they want to use in their own work. The goal here at Writing Forward is only to make ideas available. You are free to embrace or reject them as you see fit. I only ask that you consider them with an open mind.
Fair enough. I think my main problem with the advice is that many of the examples of “stronger” writing are subjective. Writing is only strong, in my mind, if it actually helps you accomplish your goal. If your goal is to move past Joe eating dinner to move onto something else, then providing additional information like devouring pizza adds unnecessary information. (I’m also not a fan of “devour” in this context, as it reads as a bit over the top, but that might just be me.)
I’d read the article below before, but had forgotten it until just today. While it comes from a slightly different place than my own argument (which boils down to “prescriptive advice kills artistry”), I think it does a fairly good job of deconstructing the argument that adverbs are bad.
As you say, though, everyone will have their own opinions and is free to follow or reject whatever advice makes the most sense to them. Thank you for your reply!
Much of what we discuss in the world of writing advice is subjective, especially when we’re evaluating a piece of writing. For example, while I respect your use of “strong writing” to describe writing that accomplishes a goal, I would describe such writing as effective or perhaps successful.
Most advice that calls for decreased use of adverbs lays out, in detail, reasons why adverbs are often (but not always) less effective than other word choices. I have yet to find such a piece that doesn’t also stress that there are absolutely times when adverbs are required.
There are hundreds of articles online about the value (or lack thereof) of adverbs. Before writing this article, I researched this topic, weighed the arguments, and even ran some tests of my own (finding or creating sentences that used adverbs and then challenging myself to rewrite those sentences without the adverbs to make them better). I came to the conclusion that adverbs are often not the best choice (best being subjective, obviously), but it seems that in your exploration of this topic, you came to a different conclusion, and that’s perfectly fine.
It seems like a subject that resonates with you, so we clearly share an interest in it, even if we come down on different sides of how often adverbs should be used.
Whether you use adverbs prolifically or not, my main hope is that you simply keep thinking about this and other writing-related issues, and of course, keep writing.
Wow, I disagree with this article. This is some serious adverb bashing. I’m a short-story writer and I try to tell a gripping, comprehensive story using as little words as possible. Using, “he crept into the room, aware that the slightest noise could wake the occupants,” when I could say, “He crept into the room silently,” is ridiculous for a short story writer. I DO agree with this for a novelist, which is why I’m very surprised (and not surprised) that Steven King would make such a comment. I’m not surprised because his books are VERY LONG.
But using them sparingly is a good goal for any writer. I am not fond of the “all adverbs are lazy writing” mantra we are creating.
Both Stephen King and the article above were very clear in saying that adverbs are sometimes useful or necessary, but they ore often overused or used unnecessarily. Notice that “He crept into the room” and “He crept into the room silently” have the same meaning and implications, so “silently” is unnecessary excess. I’m not aware of anyone, anywhere saying that “all adverbs are lazy writing.”
I also disagree with the article, and agree with Mr. Frisson. And I’ll point to the last 70 years of Pulitzer-winning fiction. I’ve run many of those books through an automated grammar-check app, and none that I’ve tested meet the “standard” for use of adverbs, i.e., they all have too many to satisfy the automated grammar checker. Admittedly, that could simply be pointing out the inadequacies of automated grammar checkers, but I think not in this case; it’s just counting words. So, who should I believe: the English professors and “experts” who push to minimize adverbs? Or the people who in effect set the standard for quality fiction?
You start your comment by saying that you disagree with this article, but then you fail to support your position by arguing with anything from the article itself. Instead, your comment offers anecdotal remarks about grammar checkers and prize winners. The premise of this article is that many writers make poor word choices with adverbs. For example, “she sprinted” is better than “she ran quickly.” Plenty of people argue with the general premise that adverbs should be abolished (from a piece of writing) but few bother to argue with the actual points made in the article, let alone the examples provided, which demonstrate why many (not all — but many) adverbs are weak.
it’s really good to see someone who understands my pain so clearly. (yes I just used an adverb QwQ)
the problem is, I already knew about the adverb problem even as a novice author because I read Chinese fantasy stories which tend to over exaggerate a lot using adverbs but I still don’t know how to actually stop using them myself.
it’s just that… shorter sentences make the work sound really plain (imo) and I tend to use adverbs to make them longer.
so yeah, I dunno which one is considered more of a lazy writing, short sentences or an abundance of adverbs, giving me a huge writing bottleneck I can’t get over.
this is where eastern and western writing styles come into conflict QwQ
It’s usually not beneficial to pack a sentence with unnecessary words to make it longer. Having said that, rhythm and flow are important, and sentences should vary in length. I can’t speak to the differences or similarities in eastern and western writing, but leaning anything takes time and practice. Eventually, it will become second nature.
I feel like I’ve learned so much reading this article and the comments and replies below it. I’m able to pick out adverbs in my writing that I wouldn’t have given a second thought before, and I take the time to determine whether or not they’re crucial to getting my point across or if a sentence would be better served by a stronger verb. I’ve found that my writing has a more consistent tone and is more fun to read! Thank you (to both the author and everyone who commented)!
You’re welcome. I’m so glad you learned something from this article. Keep writing!
I find it simple checking and abolishing adverbs ending in ly. They are now in my mindset and I can stop them in their tracks before they leave my fingers. What persists as a difficulty is the removal of the other, less obvious devils.
I also endeavour to eliminate duplicated words, or ensure a repeated word is distant in the text from its predecessor (unless I chose to be repetitive, for impact), but some words have few alternatives. Sometimes I want to say “sometimes”, because I had used “on occasion” on an occasion nearby (ouch!)
Your piece is reassuring. If it is concise and to the point, instead of taking it out, like a literary sniper, let it be, it has said its bit, but my biggest bugbear is “Not”, it is the adverb I use the most. I wind myself up in knots trying to eradicate my not’s, I find them impossible to destroy.
Should I even try to?
Hi Nigel. Thanks for sharing your experiences with adverbs and editing. Adverbs are necessary parts of speech, and we do need to use them. The message of this article is that adverbs tend to get overused, and it’s a good practice to look for adverbs that can be eliminated. That doesn’t mean every instance of not should be cut from a piece of writing. Some adverbs need to stay! Good luck, and keep writing.
Thanks – I needed that reassurance. I can be my own worst enemy!
I agree why adverbs ending “ly” are considered lazy writing. Their presence indicates a paragraph needs re-working and the result of their omission is more effective.
Well, not all adverbs that end in -ly are bad or lazy writing. However, -ly can be a red flag, something you watch out for and double check. Many of them can be removed or replaced with better language. Keep writing!
Do novel editors check your manuscript for adverbs? If so, does an occasional adverb or two make them think twice?
This article does not argue against all use of adverbs. It points out that there are many weak adverbs that can be replaced with more accurate and vivid word choices. It also notes that sometimes we should use adverbs. It’s really about making the best possible word choices. Some editors will check for word choice. It depends on what kind of editing they are doing.
In your phrase “It’s clearer and more concise“, isn’t ‘more’ an unnecessary adverb? Or am I making a mistake in trying to recognise adverbs?
The article does not say that all adverbs should be eliminated; it says to use them thoughtfully. “Conciser” is not a word, so we have to use an adverb to communicate the concept that is being conveyed. I suppose “more clear and concise” would be an option, but that can sound odd to the ear, because “clearer” is more concise than “more clear.”
I want to be a writer. How do i start writing?
Pick up a pen and a notebook, or open a new blank document on your computer. If you’re not sure what to write, look for writing prompts. Find one that interests you, and start writing. If you can’t find one that interests you, select one at random and write about it as if it’s an assignment. Until you have started writing, you cannot know that you want to be a writer. Give it a try and see how you like it.
I have a slightly different take on adverbs. I see them as phrases rather than words.
For example, in the sentence “Eliza placed her pen emphatically on the desk as soon as she had completed the last question on the exam paper to show the invigilator that she had finished.” has four adverbs:
‘on the desk’
‘as soon as she had completed the last question on the exam paper’
‘to show the invigilator that she had finished’.
All four phrases modify the verb ‘placed’ by telling how, where, when, and why the action was done.
The ‘rule’ against adverbs is actually a rule against redundancy, and my rule of thumb when editing is that, if an adverbial phrase can be left out without the loss of relevant information, it should be left out. In the above sentence, none of the adverbs is redundant – they all add something to the meaning of the sentence – therefore I wouldn’t eliminate any of them.
I would, however, replace ‘emphatically’ with either a stronger verb or with a stronger adverb… or both. For example, I might write instead “Eliza slapped her pen down on the desk like a final full stop as soon as she had completed the last question on the exam paper to show the invigilator that she had finished.” ‘Emphatically’ is a weak adverb because it tells rather than shows how the action was done. ‘Slapped… like a final full stop’ is stronger than ‘placed emphatically’ because it presents a stronger image of the manner in which Eliza put down her pen.
Hi Andrew, and thanks for commenting on this post. The phrase “on the desk” is not an adverb (if it were, it would be called an adverbial phrase). It is actually a prepositional phrase. Like adverbs and adjectives, prepositional phrases are modifiers. They consist of a preposition (on) and its object (the desk). I’m not sure how deep you want to go into this, but here’s the difference between an adverb and a prepositional phrase: an adverb modifies a verb (or adjective), and a prepositional phrase describes a relationship between two things.
There is no rule against adverbs. It’s just a loose guideline that is often expressed in hyperbole, which (as hyperbole tends to do) causes a lot of confusion when people take statements like Mr. King’s literally.
For fun, here’s how I’d rewrite the sentence:
Eliza slammed her pen on the desk to let the investigator know she was finished.
No adverbs 🙂
I’m going to have to come back and read your responses as there looks to be as much information addressing doubts as in your article.
Many people are attached to the idea of using adverbs liberally. Others tend to drop comments before reading the full text of an article. If you note the actual arguments against overuse of adverbs in my article, you’ll see that none of the comments actually provide a counter argument, and many fail to acknowledge that my article says that sometimes adverbs are great and necessary!
Thank you so much also for this lesson, Great and very useful information. Have a beautiful weekend! xx Michael
Hi Melissa, I must say you are exceptional with your responses. I also noticed you do know this subject to the teeth. I am impressed.
“Sadly” as you can see, I am addicted to adverbs. Tried to cut them out without much success.
In maths, we can learn tricks to get through difficult mathematical processes. Is there a simple way you can teach me to get rid of this habit.?
Thank you for your kind words. If you’re already in the habit of proofreading everything you write, then you can add checking your work for adverbs into your edits. You might want to set aside one full pass at anything you write just to check for adverbs. Over time, you’ll start catching unnecessary words while you’re writing, and they will diminish over time. Unnecessary adjectives and adverbs are one of the top things I check for during editing! I always find plenty that can be removed. And yes, I even do it with my blog comments, lol.