Good friend Kate Maruyama (of annotationnation.com fame) suggested I post a little something about adverbs. Quickly, I magnificently decided that the idea was fortuitously wrought and could be adeptly included as a post, and, if done right, would beneficially help writers.
See what I did there? Lots of adverbs. Did you catch them? Of course you did.
While I’ve heard several takes on adverbs, they can be boiled down to one thing: avoid them when possible. Some say never to use them—ever. Others say to use them in moderation. Still others decisively assert that you should deftly use adverbs as much as you like.
I tend to fall more on the conservative side of the issue. In fact, in my classes, we have a motto: “LY must die!” This stays on my board year-round, in big, bold marker.
Extreme? Perhaps. But it gets the point across. But why so harsh? What did adverbs ever do to me? Well, for one, they lessened the strength and quality of my writing.
For the most part, adverbs are an indication that the verb you’ve selected is not strong enough. Why say in two words (or three, as often is the case) what can be said in one. “He ran very quickly,” can become, “He sprinted.”
In the worst examples, adverbs become distracting, especially (see, sometimes they are necessary) when used in dialog tags. This is a trait of beginning writers. Consider the difference between these two examples.
Adverbly: “Get down!” John exclaimed wildly, madly flapping his arms rapidly.
Conservatively: John shouted, “Get down!” He flapped his arms like a pigeon.
The elimination of the adverbs forced me to be more precise. It even produced a simile. The overuse of LY in the first example calls too much attention to itself, and the reader ends up missing the exact thing the writer is trying to emphasize.
Bottom line: Adverbs reek of amateur. As professional writers, we are professional word assassins—kill what harms the whole. This is the basics of editing, and editing begins with adverbs.