Hello, and welcome to Modifier Monday*, brave souls. Under fire today are adverbs, one of my favorite parts of speech to mercilessly bash. Heh heh. Let’s begin with a quote from the master of suspense, Stephen King, from his book “On Writing”.
“The adverb is not your friend.”
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Some of you will have noticed I used one earlier, but let’s first talk about what they are. An adverb is a modifier, and it simplifies or changes a verb, adjective, or sentence, among other things. Just as above, where I said adverbs are things I “mercilessly bash”, I was modifying the verb bash. But in reality, except for certain cases, I agree with Mr King in that they are unnecessary and are another way for writers to be lazy. Consider:
“The adverb was whipped mercilessly.”
“The adverb, strung up and bound at the hands and feet, felt the nine tails of the whip slash through the soft skin of its back. Each tail left a channel of blood and gristle in its wake.”
While you may not agree with the revision for a variety of reasons, don’t you agree that it conveys a more visceral feeling than the simple adverb? Are they avoidable in all circumstances? Maybe. Can they be used with success? Varying degrees. It all depends on the word wielder and the frequency of use. For me, a sentence is always stronger without them and eliminating them forces the author to use description instead of shortcut around it.
Disclaimer: I have used them- past, present, and future.
There’s much to discuss about adverbs. Do you have some examples of appropriate use? When just nothing else will do? Do you like them? Feel free to express your opinions!
*originally published on my facebook page, on a Monday