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ADVERBS

September 15, 2020

            Last week I was going to address this subject, but something else came up. Now it’s time.

MOST COMMON CUTS

            Keep in mind that I’ve been writing for decades now. That doesn’t mean I write perfect. Far from it. However, I do have a bit of proficiency after all these years. In fact, my at least initial proficiency is one reason I took up this passion to begin with.

            That being said, I still have to edit my work, whether it’s these weekly blogs, my book manuscripts, or even my impromptu Facebook posts.

            Very little gets by me without some kind of editing.

            Outside of typos, what are the most common cuts I make?

            Adverbs.

WHAT’S AN ADVERB?

            Rather than specifically define an adverb, per se, let me give you a red flag.

            “ly”

            Yup, that’s it.

            Any word that ends in an “ly” is probably an adverb. There are a few exceptions. In fact, I just used an adverb right there! In this case, I feel it’s justified.

            Speaking of justified, how about the word just?

            While just is an adjective, it’s well overused and can be cut most of the time.

            However, back on track. When you see an “ad” as in “add” “verb”, it’s an enhanced verb. One way of looking at it. It’s an emphasized verb that quite often doesn’t add anything to the sentence.

EXAMPLES

            There’s nothing like good examples.

            It was a really big mountain.

            Really is unnecessary. While the mountain was obviously huge, really emphasizes it and initially sounds reasonable enough. However, in writing narrative, it only adds fluff.

            It was a big mountain.

            Simple.

            Or even better.

            The massive peak stood before him.

            More active.

            The street was completely devoid of movement.

            Nope.

            The street was devoid of movement.

            Better.

            Nothing moved on the street.

            I could go on and on.

DO A WORD SEARCH

            In your manuscript, do a word search for just (see I used just for effect) “ly” and see what comes up. You may be shocked.

            This isn’t an effort to sanitize your manuscript of every adverb, especially in dialogue. People don’t speak like narrative. That’s a whole different set of rules.

            On the other hand, be careful using adverbs in dialogue as well. Consider speech patterns and realistic ways people talk.

SUMMARY

            Sometimes you’ve probably been told to do word searches for was, has been, to be etc. This time it’s “ly” words.

            Next time, it may be another word.

            I’ll surprise you!

            Maybe…

            Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2020 11:32 pm

    As a writer, it really helps to challenge yourself to use words effectively. You used great examples of adverbs. In general, I also believe that they weaken a writer’s writing. I have read other books discussing this topic; I tend to read anything that will help me become a better writer, be that books on character development and analysis, plot and setting, but also reference books such as books on grammar and language mechanics.

    • September 19, 2020 12:35 pm

      Leticia,

      Thanks so much for the comment! My goto book is Chicago Manual of Style.

      All the best!

      Fred

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