Adverbs — Why You Don’t Need Them

I seem to have developed a prolific use of adverbs or words ending in –ly, which is an extremely (adv.) bad trait!

I decided to do some research and find out what others are saying about them, and this is what I discovered.

  1. There is ongoing controversy about the use of adverbs—some say they enable the writer to tell the story more convincingly (adv.) while others like Steven King say the road to hell is paved with them.
  2. You can use them freely (adv.) in dialogue. Most people use them in conversation.
  3. Mostly (adv.) they are not needed anywhere else in your manuscript. They weaken the prose.
  4. Adverbs minimize the dramatic effect of the action
  5. Adverbs are often considered lazy writing. We should be looking for strong verbs that convey what we want readers to know.

I have found in many instances, that removing an adverb from a sentence completely (adv.) doesn’t change the meaning. It does make for ‘tighter’ writing with less unnecessary words.

One way of getting around them is to use a question.

He probably thought I was attracted to him. or  Did he think I was attracted to him?

He possibly mistook her bubbly personality for flirting. or Could he have mistaken her bubbly personality for a come-on?

It was likely she saw Angela as a rival. Did she see Angela as a rival?

“I’m scared,” she said quietly. or “I’m scared,” she said in a tremulous voice.

Suddenly, two men appeared. or Two men appeared out of nowhere.

You could probably come up with better examples, but you get the idea.



About Trish Jackson, Author

I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, Africa, and lived through some crazy adventures that sparked my imagination, including having to keep a loaded UZI by my side every night in case of an attack by armed insurgents. I write romantic suspense and romantic comedy, and love all animals and they seem to worm themselves into my stories, which are mostly set in country locales.
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5 Responses to Adverbs — Why You Don’t Need Them

  1. I agree wholehearted (ly).

  2. Nancy Fraser says:

    Some very sound advice. I often will search a finished chapter for ly words and rewrite the sentence. I’m a big fan of replacing them with questions.

  3. Excellent point. I fall into that adverb trap when my brain can’t come up with a better sentence. Thanks for the examples—-it helps to clear the fog.

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