Friday, January 6, 2012

The evils of adverbs

I've had a pet peeve for years and didn't know it.

Adverbs.

A very well-known fantasy author--whom I will forgo speaking the name, as he's been an inspiration into the fantasy world, second only to Stephen King--wrote a highly successful novel a few decades ago now, and even to this day something irks me about it: his liberal use of adverbs.  If he got paid a dollar for each adverb, he could probably afford a decent-sized home.  I'm not kidding.

Here's the weird part.  The second book of the series had much fewer adverbs, with one exception: he used the word "wordlessly" in so many places that I almost wanted to throw up--I didn't, simply because it was a decent story.

If I ever get a chance to meet him--Mr. Famous Fantasy Author Who Will Remain Nameless--I'd like to ask him if the use of adverbs was ever pointed out to him.  The reason I say this is because the third book in the series had very few adverbs.

Okay, elementary students, what's an adverb?

Wordlessly . . . silently . . .. awkwardly . . . most anything with an "ly" at the end of it.

Strunk and White, in their classic book The Elements of Style said to eliminate all adverbs completely, and even called the use of adverbs lazy.  In a way, it's a way of "telling" the reader, instead of "showing" them.

If you find yourself loaded down with adverbs, try take as many of them away as you can.  Strike them all, if you have to.  Then, stretch your imagination and find ways of replacing them, if you feel the need.

1 comment:

  1. Nooooo, not all adverbs "completely"

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