Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beginning Writers: Adverbs

Beginning Writers: Adverbs
Adverbs are often referred to as the dreaded LY words. By definition, the adverb is the part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. You might be surprised how many you use. It’s easy to dump them into your narrative, and so easy to rely on them to do your work for you. Try the Find feature of your word processor. Then type in LY and hit Find.
Try rewriting sentences that contains LY words. Instead, use an action verb or physical movement to create an image for the reader. I’m not suggesting you automatically eliminate all adverbs from your writing. However, each adverb should be viewed suspiciously. Finally, If the adverb can be easily eliminated without dramatically changing the meaning of the passage then it should be immediately removed and carefully scrutinized when revising. It’ll make your writing stronger and tighter. Smile.
With a lowered head and eyes fixed in front, she moved silently, swiftly and carefully, like a cat stalking its prey. The dirt work edits way stubbornly into her fingernails. She coughed softly and carefully continued on her way. Simply by removing the six adverbs (silently, swiftly,carefully, stubbornly, softly, carefully), the passage loses nothing of the meaning but the clutter: With a lowered head and eyes fixed in front, she moved like a cat stalking its prey. The dirt worked its way into her fingernails. She gave a muffled cough and continued on her way.
• Her eyes closed tightly. This could read as: She squeezed her eyes shut.
The teacher looked menacingly at the disruptive student.Could say: The teacher glared at the hooligan.
• He foolishly invested in bad real estate, becomes, He speculated in real estate.
• She went quickly, try: She hurried, or, She sprinted.
• She spoke softly, try simply: She whispered.
• Mary prodded gingerly at the remains of what had once been a chicken leg, wishing she had the nerve to feign a headache, anything to avoid actually eating the charred meat. Try: Mary poked the burnt remains with her fork. It used to be a chicken leg. No way anyone could tell now. Where was the inevitable headache that reared up during one of these get-togethers? Did she dare fake one? Anything so she wouldn’t have to eat the charred meat.
General rule of thumb. Though adverbs are a useful and necessary form of speech and there are times when no other word or combination of words will suffice adverbs should be used only when necessary.
Suggested reading:
On Writing Well, 5th Edition - William Zinsser
Self Editing For Fiction Writers - Renni Browne and DaveKing
By Cindy Davis 

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