What is wrong with using adverbs in our writing?

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  1. Blond Logic profile image93
    Blond Logicposted 7 years ago

    What is wrong with using adverbs in our writing?

    I have read that many authors do not like use adverbs.
    Stephen King says, "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

  2. Kristen Howe profile image94
    Kristen Howeposted 7 years ago

    Adverbs is passive and there's a better way of showing than telling that way. You can use them sparingly in moderation.

    1. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      I think I need to read a few more books on writing. So many years have passed since my English classes.
      Thanks Kristen

  3. Om Nom Nom profile image60
    Om Nom Nomposted 7 years ago

    Adverbs themselves aren't problematic: it's the tendency of novice writers to overuse them. Many times these adverbs aren't adding anything meaningful to a sentence, and they end up "cluttering" the writing.

    To toss out a rudimentary example, imagine you read the following in a novel:

    "What time should we meet up with him?" I asked, quizzically. He quickly ran over to me, panting like a dog.

    "About six this evening," he said, breathlessly.

    Here I've used three adverbs ("quizzically", "quickly", and "breathlessly") in a span of three sentences. All three would be better left out. To say someone "asks something quizzically" is redundant. "Quickly" is a weak adverb. We don't need to see the word "quickly" in a sentence to know that someone who is "running" can move quickly. It's implied. Finally, the inclusion of "breathlessly" is also redundant, because the reader could already infer this based on the stronger observation that the speaker was panting like a dog.

    Though this is just one example, it's easy to imagine just how weak and unnecessary many adverbs are.

    Adverbs aren't "off limits", but use them sparingly. Make sure they aren't weak, just restating the obvious, or taking up space without adding anything to the sentence (that couldn't be imagined or inferred by the reader).

    When in doubt, try leaving it out. There is almost always a more powerful and imaginative way of adding detail than using an adverb.

    Hope this helps you! Happy writing!

    1. cam8510 profile image92
      cam8510posted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Good comment.

    2. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Yes it has helped. It is cutting out the fluff. Your examples, and explanations are perfect. As one other person commented, choose brave and strong words instead.
      Thanks for your answer.

    3. Venkatachari M profile image80
      Venkatachari Mposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Very good advice. Thanks, Om Nom Nom. Your reply can be of much help to most of us

    4. Venkatachari M profile image80
      Venkatachari Mposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      BTW, Om Nom Nom, you are welcome to Hubpages. I went to your profile and found you joined only 2 days back. Wish you good luck and all the best.

    5. Om Nom Nom profile image60
      Om Nom Nomposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks, Venkatachari!

  4. Rochelle Frank profile image91
    Rochelle Frankposted 7 years ago

    It may be a matter of style, but adverbs tend to clutter and dilute the message.
    I guess he could have said: "I deeply and sincerely believe the road to hell is substantially paved with adverbs, and I will loudly and ardently shout it from the rooftops."
    I think we should swiftly, assiduously and completely remove  any unnecessary words from our writing.

    1. Lisa HW profile image63
      Lisa HWposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      While I don't disagree with any of the above answers; I have to say I kind of like your "bad example" version better - except for, maybe, one or two adverbs.   BUT, the "statement example" is not fiction writing.  It expresses thoughts/feelings.

    2. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Hi Rochelle,
      I have to agree with Lisa HW, I like your bad example too. Maybe I should have been born in a different era, say Victorian or 1600's when language was littered with such things.

  5. wingedcentaur profile image66
    wingedcentaurposted 7 years ago

    Hi Mary Wickison! How's it going?

    Adverbs in fiction have the character of an author trying to convince herself of whatever mood she is trying to set, in a scene, in a chapter, in a story, or novel. Imagine listening to someone talk about something: a friend trying to convince you (or himself?) that he is NOT an alcoholic.

    Wouldn't his speech be filled with ridiculous superlatives and adjectives?: I am absolutely not an alcoholic! Yes sir, I can definitely hold off from drinking anytime I want to! To make you happy, I'm going to be really, really, really disciplined and stop for a month!

    If you are writing a scary story, you should let the story do the work. You should not try to help it along with desperate, prompting, laugh-track language like adverbs.

    "The door opened creakily in the still of the night, with the full moon glowing maniacally in the inky black of the sky." Yada, yada, yada...

    If I ever wrote something so awful, you should ask me: Are you, the writer, trying to convince the reader or yourself that the atmosphere is scary?

    Fiction writers need show their stuff bravely and not hide behind desperate, prompting, laugh-track adverbs.

    Take it easy!

    1. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for those examples. I can see in a dialogue they could work depending on the character. Your creaking door example does sound desperate.  Thanks for your answer.

  6. cam8510 profile image92
    cam8510posted 7 years ago

    Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with them in writing, but they can be the sign of a lazy writer.  Showing the story, creating images in the readers' mind, is done with nouns and active, action verbs.  I write a lot of flash fiction and keep my word count under 1,000 words.  Action words and picture words tell the story.  Good question.

    1. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      I think you've hit the nail on the head, it is laziness. I thought it sounded more arty and poetic. Too many romance books perhaps.

  7. profile image0
    Larry Wallposted 7 years ago

    Writing by a formula—that is what we all learned in English class. Adverbs have their place. Using too many adverbs is like using too many adjectives or conjunctions to connect four sentences into one.
    It sometimes works. Many times it will not. I argue with proof readers at one of the content mills where I average about $1,000 a year. We argue over commas. In particular, we argue about the comma before the word 'and' when listing a series of items, separated by commas. The word and is not one of the items and accordingly, does not need a comma in front of it. That is how we did it in the newspaper business. We also spelled employee with one e at the end for decades, but finally bumped it up to two e's at the end. Grammar rules have to be approach with a personal viewpoint. Your writing has to be clear, but it can be different. I am looking forward to the day when the split infinitive is no longer taboo. It will happen in the future, when the Starship Enterprize undertakes its mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before."

    I have been writing for 40 years. I have won some awards as a reporter, made a little money as a free lancer, was doing well on Hub Pages for a while and am working on a couple of short stories. I will never be a novelist. I do not want to develop stories that require such length. Every writer has to learn his own style. There is no guarantee it will make you rich, but it will be your style.

    1. cam8510 profile image92
      cam8510posted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Good words, Larry.  Thanks.

    2. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Your words have hit home with me. I enjoy writing but I don't feel I have found the right avenue yet. I enjoy Hubpages but the financial rewards are lacking. The content mill I write for leaves me feeling like a prostitute.

  8. Billie Kelpin profile image86
    Billie Kelpinposted 7 years ago

    "Absolutely" nothing is wrong with using adverbs in our writing.  This is an over- generalized concept that became perpetuated throughout the writing community.  Factual, non-fiction writing such as the how-to articles here on hubpages does not lend itself "well" to the use of adverbs and "probably" is deterred by them. (Although you might not want to eliminate "slowly" when describing how to add sugar in a merigue recipe smile  Literary writing, however (short stories, novels, etc.) can be enhanced by the "delicately" placed adverb.  There are so many different styles of writing and preferences in style of a reader.  I myself am not fond of "too" many metaphors or visual images in a piece of writing.  I get lost in visual descriptions because I'm an auditory person.  Anne Lindbergh’s "Gift from the Sea" drove me crazy and it was other people's favorite book club choice at the time!  Either you love Beethoven or John Denver,  Gospel music or heavy metal.  Everything has it's place and importance.  Adverbs have theirs, "especially" when used "judiciously" and "well".  (I "totally" didn't intend to monitor my adverbs here with quotes - just wrote "naturally" and added the quotes after the fact. For better or worse, the use of adverbs is just my style and I'm sticking to it. )

    1. Blond Logic profile image93
      Blond Logicposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      You have made some valid points. I think my writing is liberally sprinkled with them. Thanks for defending the use of adverbs.
      Thanks for your answer.


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