Saturday, March 03, 2007

Writing tip 2: Adverbs

Adverbs are not your friends. They water down your writing. When- or where-adverbs (e.g. “yesterday” or “here”) are okay. How-adverbs (e.g. “slowly” or “fast”) are the troublemakers. Do you really need them? Isn’t there a better verb you could use instead?

Consider this:

… he mumbled hoarsely … try … he croaked …
… she drove slowly … try … she inched through traffic …
… he said aggressively … try … he ordered …

I used to like adverbs. They were everywhere. I put effort into finding the right ones. My first drafts were peppered with them. I can’t remember what made me suddenly see them or why I grew wise to their existence, but now I agonize over stronger verbs instead. Think of them as the fat or sugar in your writing diet; use them in moderation and you’ll be fine.

Bonus tip: If you have trouble paring down your writing, take a good look at your adverbs. Chances are, you can delete most of them.

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