Adverbs: Friend, Foe, Switzerland?




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Stephen King: The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

Mark Twain: I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me.

Graham Greene: There is almost a complete absence of the beastly adverb–far more damaging to a writer than an adjective.
Theodore Roethke: In order to write good stuff you have to hate adverbs.
Wow. Why do some great writers get their knickers in such a twist over adverbs? Writing should involve the use of the strongest, most vivid verbs. Adverbs enable lazy writing. Instead of “He spoke loudly,” try “He bellowed,” “He yelled,” “He shouted,” “He blared.” Each one has a slightly different meaning, and each one is more specific than “He spoke loudly.”

Another place writers often misuse adverbs is in tags. “I am afraid,” she said, fearfully. Don’t tell us (with the adverb) what the dialogue has already shown us. She’s afraid. Don’t gild the lily.

I’m not opposed to the occasional adverb. I am opposed to lazy writing and telling. The overuse of adverbs enables both of those bad habits.


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