Monday, May 16, 2016

Sad Mr. Adverb

Sad Mr. Adverb is so very sad
Seems he's been labelled crazy and mad 
By whom? you might ask, and rightfully too  
By Them, you'd be told, them in the blue
They say don't use him, not any ole way
He's not fit for language, requiem, or play 
Well, if that be true, then give him the boot 
For new writers know nothin,' and old writers toot moot 

[Haha, I know! Don't quit my day job and take up poetry writing.]

THEY have been telling us to cut adverbs for so long that the rule is now a norm. Why? Because too many writers use adverbs to modify the wrong word. Or they use ambiguous adverbs that tell us nothing. It's become easier to say, "Don't use them," then to illustrate their proper use. 

"And when he spoke, his words came slowly and softly." The Legend of Devil's Creek. D.C. Alexander.  
"She gave a sharp cry of realization just as hands, which she had noticed specifically for their size and strength, caught her upper arm from behind." Mean Streak, Sandra Brown.  
She had just enough time to recognize the heavy hammer she sometimes used to [...] It was in his hands [...]." Dead Wood, Dan Ames 
"When I sit up I do it slowly, blinking heavily. There is a sour taste in my mouth [...]" Follow the Crow, B.B. Griffith. 
"It was a vision of hell. A dismally foggy day over stinking heaps of refuse—" Book of Shadows, Alexandra Sokoloff.
"Reidinger's face was terribly young and unlined, but his brown eyes [...]." The Angel of Zin, Clifford Irving. 
"[...] Jack had said something else to him, too quietly for Wendy to hear, and Tom had only shaken his head sullenly [...]." The Shining, Stephen King. 
"It's difficult to come out on top when everyone is your enemy. Fortunately for us, we aren't at that point yet." Dragon of the Stars, Alex J. Cavanaugh. [Some would argue that out in this case is an adverb. I'll leave that decision for the wordsmiths]

When used correctly, adverbs convey something important and even powerful for the reader. They add rhythm to your prose. They're the reason your reader turns the page; they add something vital to the plot. They don't glob up your sentences. Learn how to use them effectively and I promise your writing will become stronger. 

By the way, @TheIWSG is now on twitter. 

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We wouldn't have so many if they weren't to be used at some point.
Look at all the adverbs in the last one... (It was dialogue though, and people do speak adverbs.)

Pat Hatt said...

They can be used and the rhyme sure amused. Dialogue I find they are way easier to creep in as people do talk with them many a time.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joylene - sometime I must do a grammar course ... they had an example of a school test in one of the good papers the other day - I couldn't do any of it - I'm just grateful that despite the complete lack of understanding of grammar I seem to be able to get by reasonably well.

I lost the plot at school ... as things were happening that weren't easy, and then we had Latin thrown at us ... and French ... I'd no idea what was happening and many decades later - I still don't!!

Cheers - I need lessons ... Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

*Alex, you're always right! Good dialogue, btw.
*Pat, now that's poetry!
*Hilary, you are a natural!

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I do use adverbs sparingly (ha!) and for impact.

cleemckenzie said...

I ignore most popular writing advice. Like "kill the adverbs." Those words add a lilt to the language with their beautiful -ly tails. Glad you posted this.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

They do have their place.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Excellent points. Every writer hears that don't use them mantra but seldom understand it's not that simple.

Nicola said...

Great post, Joylene! You are right, using adverbs correctly can be a power tool to give the reader a heightened experience. Thank you for reminding us :)

Linda Kay said...

It seems my critique group is now going crazy over finding adverbs.... but using them in dialogue does make sense.

Juneta key said...

Love the post. Great poem too. Well done. Followed @TheIWSG
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Anonymous said...

I think like anything else, adverb use is something an author has to decide case by case. You can ax them all and ruin a scene just as easily as over using them.

Anonymous said...

I was under the assumption that it was all right to use adverbs but only when it enhances the sentence/passage. I was told to ask myself is a better and stronger verb could be used instead. If there isn't one that fits right, go ahead and use the adverb.

Lynn La Vita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn La Vita said...

Love your poem and correction at the very end. Your article and the comments help to understand the correct use of the adverbs. I have a lot to learn. (I tried to upload a comment with new profile).

Anonymous said...

Try to avoid adverbs - just following orders - but then my sentences feel clunky. The right adverb adds a flow, I feel. As for the wrong one, that is like an air bag.

J.L. Campbell said...

Great pointers, Joylene. I'm one of those writers who does not believe in cluttering my sentences unnecessarily

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

*Christine, good job.
*Lee, thanks!
*Thanks, Diane.
*Susan, so true.
*Nicola, you're welcome!
*Linda, maybe you can convince to think outside the box.
*Juneta, thanks!
*Patricia, that's why understanding their use is so important.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

*Glynis, start with studying adverbs, what they are, why they work, when they don't, and then go from there. It's about personal style, for sure, but it's also about creating the strongest writing you can.

*Lynn, keep at it. You're growing in leaps and bounds.

*Roland, it's a personal choice. I hope this article gives writers pause for thought.

*Joy, thanks!

Michelle Wallace said...

Cute poem, Joylene.
Thanks for showering Sad Mr. Adverb with some writerly affection.

Chrys Fey said...

I tend to overuse them in my first drafts and then I have to cut. Like JL, I prefer tight sentences. At the same time, I'm also a writer who likes them, so I sometimes ignore that "rule". ;)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

*Michelle, thanks for visiting.

*Chrys, yes, it's better if we listen to our instincts. Thanks.

Unknown said...

It's always good when new writers force themselves to learn and use the rules: no adverbs, no passive verbs, no bookisms, and "show don't tell." That forces them to learn not to be sloppy and that there are always alternative ways to write lines. However, once a writer is seasoned, they need to pay attention to voice and flow. Those are more important. So then they're free to break all the rules! (But only in moderation.) I loved your poem! :)

Sadira Stone said...

"Yup," she drawled laconically. Some members of my writers' group cling to such rules as "no adverbs" like life preservers in a stormy sea. Have these members published any fiction? Nope. Do I listen to their rule-bound advice? Well, I consider it, but you can't let "the rules" suck the life out of your writing.
Cute poem!
@RhondaGilmour from
Late Blooming Rose

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

So very true, Lexa.

You love my poem! Thanks!