While reviewing several blogs recently, I found a few articles badmouthing adverbs.
“An adverb is a word that changes the meaning of the verb, adjective or another adverb. Using the previous tip, your verb will annul the need for an adverb.” From “My Golden Rules to ‘Show don’t Tell” by Leona Brigs in Medium.
“3. The road to hell is paved with good intentions… and adverbs.” From “Five Super Easy Ways to Improve Your Blogs” by Christian Mihai in the Art of Blogging.
Are words ending in “ly” really ugly and totally worthless?
Barbara Baig offered a counter argument in an August 18, 2015 guest post for Writer’s Digest.
Not too long ago, on Facebook, aspiring MFAs were proudly announcing that they had spent entire revision sessions excising from their manuscripts every word ending in “-ly.” Quoting Stephen King (who was perhaps quoting Nathaniel Hawthorne), they assured each other that The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs. Well, with all due respect to Mr. King and Mr. Hawthorne, it just ain’t so.
To begin with, an adverb is not merely a word that happens to end in -ly. An adverb is one of the four content parts of speech (the others are nouns, verbs, and adjectives) which enable us to construct sentences. Every part of speech does something in a sentence: nouns name things, verbs provide action, adjectives and adverbs add to or limit or clarify the nouns and verbs. A writer determined to eliminate adverbs will be a seriously handicapped writer, for adverbs can make more specific, add information to, not only verbs, but also adjectives and other adverbs. Adverbs, like the other content parts of speech, are an essential for every writer’s toolkit; they can do things that the other parts of speech cannot.
Adverbs in dialog seem to be one of the favorite places for adverb haters.
From Brainpickings “Stephen King on Writing, Fear and the Atrocity of Adverbs”
‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.
In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:
‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.
Oviously, adverbs are redundant to the strong verb.
How about as the topic sentence for a paragraph?
When I saw the teenager and the young child approaching the pool, I mistakingly thought that the young child would be the problem. The teenager splashed the younger child when ever the child lifted his head for air as he methodically swam back and forth and in the lane. The child ignored the droplets that hit his face whenever he lifted it above the water. Later at the hot tub’s edge, the younger child dangled his feet as the he sat quietly next to his father. The teenager sat on the top step between the handles of the hot tub until his father told him to move. He sidled under the handles to the oppostite side of the ladder before edging back to the middle of the steps. As I exited the hot tub, his father grunted at him to move. The teen ager did so reluctantly and sat back down almost immediately, his back brushing my calf before I could climb over the the top step.
Do you think that adverbs should be vanquished like yesterday’s tunafish left too long in the sun?