Adverbs will make or break a story
According to The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition*: “An adverb is a word that qualifies, limits, describes, or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.” Adverbs are used to modify a phrase or a clause, helping writers illustrate “how”, “when”, “where” and to what degree an action took place.
The following is a short list of adverbs that are commonly used:
Really, quickly, always, truly, usually, typically, very, closely, fairly, happily, often, carefully
Adverbs will enhance a story when used in moderation. When used excessively, the writing takes on an overly dramatic tone, perhaps even sounding preachy. Plus, overuse of descriptive words leads to redundant phrasing and the appearance of a writer whose repertoire is lacking.
Tips for reducing adverb use
Verbs are capable of describing action without depending on adverbs. However, adverbs are valuable tools for adding emphasis and clarifying details, and when they are used purposefully a writer has unlimited options to describe the action. Let’s take a look at how to use adverbs.
Example 1: If a writer wishes to communicate that someone has hung up the phone, there are a number of ways in which to do so.
They could write, “Catherine hung up the phone” or “Catherine quickly hung up the phone.”
Both are succinct, but vague. If Catherine quickly hung up the phone, the writer could have meant that she was in a hurry or she was angry.
Perhaps if she was angry, “Catherine slammed down the phone.”
Example 2: Avoid redundant phrases such as tiny little, which could be replaced with minuscule or just tiny.
Example 3: Intensify the action without using an adverb. “She ran swiftly across the room” could be rewritten as, “She sprinted across the room.”
Adverbs — less is more
When you undergo the editing process, focusing on your use of adverbs will challenge your writing ability and expand your repertoire.
There are a variety of ways to choose how to describe an action without getting wordy — less is more. And in the end, when you do want to emphasize something specific, it will be more obvious to the reader because it doesn’t have to compete against other unnecessarily exaggerated notions.
How do you remove the clutter from your writing?
Are you really aware of an adverb you use unconsciously? Can you guess what mine is?
*The Chicago Manual of Style is an affiliate link.
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