I have come to believe adverbs are cigarettes for writers. We’re told they are no good for us, are highly-addictive, but yet they’re still around, tempting us. Why, oh, why?
I just received my latest manuscript back from my editor and have been on an adverb-eliminating quest ever since. By the time I send a book to my editor I try to make my manuscript fairly clean, but apparently this time around I was adverb-happy. 🙂
Are adverbs really that bad?
First, let’s be in agreement about the definition of an adverb. A quick Google search reveals the definition as : “A word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there ).”
In particular, my editor was after adverbs modifying verbs. (And yes, likes and dislikes do change from editor to editor, even within the same publisher, but more on that in another post.)
So the question is: Do we overuse adverbs in writing? And can we be descriptive without them?
A quick glance at a poster today at our local children’s museum argued in favor of adverbs:
Touch GENTLY. Yes, there’s a difference.
“He touched her cheek gently” is very different than, “He touched her cheek roughly,” or even, “He touched her cheek.”
Of course if he’s caressing her cheek, we probably don’t need the adverb. Most readers would agree a caress is gentle, making the word, “gently” superfluous.
And if you read many popular novels, especially Young Adult novels, adverbs are sprinkled all over the pages.
So, what about you? If you’re a writer, do you use adverbs? And as a reader, do you like them? Or do you agree with so many editors who’d like to banish the use of adverbs? 😉
Leave a comment and let us know!