I’m introducing a new series called Quick Tips. Every now and then (I’ll try for every fortnight or so), I’ll post about an issue we writers tend to struggle with, and I’ll make quick suggestions for how to address it. I’ll try to keep the posts under or around 200 words.
I’ll keep on posting longer pieces as well, but sometimes we just want a quickie, right?
Ready? Here we go.
Quick Tips #1: Adverbs
The way editors splutter and spit over this issue, you’d think adverbs were the Devil’s spawn.
Here’s the thing – They’re not ALWAYS bad.
The trick is to use them sparingly, where the effect is going to be greatest.
But yes, in general, it’s best to avoid them if you can. They weaken sentences. They are often the lazy option.
Here’s what I mean. Consider the following two sentences:
“Come here, baby,” she whispered seductively.
“Come here, baby,” she purred.
Putting aside the fact that this reads like a snippet from “Worst Sex Scenes in Literature: Coming Your Way”, which sentence is better?
The first is clear and straightforward. Bit boring though.
The second is immediately more interesting, because a “muscly” verb has been used instead of a weaker verb and an adverb. It comes alive. We can almost see and hear this character. (Whether we want to or not is another issue, but you see my point.)
So: avoid adverbs where you can. Instead, reach for verbs with muscle. The result will be more vivid, concise, interesting descriptions.
One more example:
“And that’s the post for today,” she said, getting up happily from her chair.
“And that’s the post for today,” she said, bounding from her chair.
6 thoughts on “Quick Tips #1: Adverbs”
As someone who is trying to finish their second attempt at a full length novel, this is great advice. I am glad to learn this now and not when I’m already in the editing phase. I look forward to many more quick tips!
That’s exciting! Let me know if there’s anything you’re particularly struggling with, and I’ll try to do a Quick Tip on it.
I think a quick tip on dialogue would be great. I know dialogue is a little broad but specifically when dialogue is helpful for developing the story and when it is too much. Currently that is what I struggle with.
I’ll see if I can be helpful in only 200 words, lol. Keep an eye out – I have a couple of other quick tips to come first, but will try to fit this one in. It’s a goodie!
Very true advice here! 🙂 Often it’s cherry-picking just the right punchy verb to spice up the story. Far better than adding redundant adverbs that only reinforce what you’ve already described. Will definitely remember this with my future writing!
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