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Ed
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« on: November 20, 2005, 06:30:15 AM »

Common advice given to new and aspiring writers is to edit out adverbs.  To quote Steven King - "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."  Yet, read any one of his books and there's a fair smattering of them.  Same with most other published works.  Pro authors use adverbs, so why not beginners?

There's a distinction to be made, apparently, between adverbs of manner (AoM) - "Frank said gushingly," and your plain, ordinary, everyday words like, "Slowly, madly, deeply."

My personal view is that adverbs have a place in literature, because sometimes you need a particular word to convey what you're saying, and sometimes it's an adverb.  What I take exception to is 'telly adverbs' and those used in speech tags - "I hate you and your entire family!" Frank blurted angrily.  Yeuk rolleyes 
Likewise, when you've just finished describing a person who has lost everything and then you start littering the place with words like 'sadly' and 'morosely' scratch  What's the point?  Surely it's redundant description.

Sometimes adverbs can add to the voice of a narrative, so the narrator sounds like a real person, with character, which can be great and add soul to the text.  Other times adverbs can be intrusive, too telly, clumsy.

Thoughts? huh
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2005, 09:56:50 AM »

Ahhh, excellent timing, Mr. Ed. I've been listening to Robin Cook's Marker on CD as I drive around. I keep thinking he's doing everything you shouldn't do, yet he sells! Most annoying, his writing explodes with adverbs and is really over-writing and over-telling the reader. The MC is pregnant and he tells the reader, over and over and over about her emotional ups and downs and abdominal pain ("She wonders if this kind of pain is normal for a pregnancy.") She's a frigging 43 year old Medical Examiner! How could she not know it's an ectopic pregnancy! Ridiculous!
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Ed
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2005, 12:56:11 PM »

Yes, that does sound ridiculous.  I often wonder how some of these famous authors get some of this stuff past their editors - you would think somebody would pull the author to one side and take issue with them. 
But then, people like Dan Brown sell millions of copies, and perhaps that's where the big publishing houses are looking, rather than at the text itself? scratch

My wife will trawl through endless drivel (to my mind) and not even notice the writing - it either captures her imagination, or it doesn't.  Win or lose.  Strange. undecided
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2005, 01:02:47 PM »

This point crops up fairly regularly.  For instance, on Writer's Dock recently...

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Yes, I've read and enjoyed it, too. However, at one point I thought, 'Oh, no, not Stephen King too...' as I do every time the 'kill all adverbs' cry goes up.

Why? Well, here's a link to a page showing the SEVERAL, DIFFERENT kinds of adverb that exist. http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/ADVERBS13.cfm
I'm afraid many people are only consciously aware of the first mentioned, adverbs of manner - if you haven't met the others, do have a look at the examples given. Of course texts can often be sharpened or tightened up by finding a more appropriate expression than 'verb+adverb-of-manner'. However, we couldn't speak or write coherently without other kinds of adverb.

 
Like King SO follows his own advice, lol.

Agree, Nicky. You have to take these isolated nuggets of advice with a large pinch of salt, otherwise you get issues like the ones here: http://www.writersdock.co.uk/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=18927
 
I really enjoyed King's On Writing. It felt more real to me than other writing books I've read. But his adverb quote is often used out of context, isn't it?

Thanks for the link to the adverbs site, Nicky. It cleared up a lot of confusion for me. I'll be bookmarking it for future reference.
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And, from elsewhere...

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Adverbs; why you may have been told they're bad when in fact they're nothing of the kind.

 

 The argument goes: adverbs are a sign of weak writing and you should always substitute a strong verb instead. But what is an adverb?

 

 Like the adjective, it gives the reader additional information. It tells us how, where or when something was done.

He walked (how?) quickly.

He shaved (when) yesterday.

He telephones (with what frequency?) often.

He went jogging (where?) round the park.


     This last example is an adverbial phrase, but it’s doing the same job as an adverb, making the writing more precise.

 

So I’d ask these people who say Avoid Adverbs, how are you going to find a so-called strong verb that conveys the sense of tomorrow or first or next or then or seldom? In any case, ‘He walked quickly’ might be exactly what you want to say because the alternatives – he strode, he hurried, he trotted, he bustled, he ran – are none of them quite right for the picture you want to create.
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