Monday, July 20, 2009

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your ADVERBS here . . .

Okay, I love Schoolhouse Rock, because, it well, uh . . . rocks! I bought the 30th Anniversary edition of the series a few years back. Sigh! Unfortunately, I was around when most (probably all) of the episodes first aired. That was back when Saturday morning cartoons - Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes - were actually good.

Anyhow, The Blood-Red Pencil did a post about the dreaded ADVERB last week, which made me start thinking . Hate it when that happens.

Why are ADVERBS such a no-no in writing? I mean, don't people laugh loudly and softly at times, and then sometimes just normally? Don't people tilt their head slightly to the right or left? Can't people stare intently at something? Don't people smile slightly at some things and widely at others?


So, why can't we put those lovely (lolly, lolly, lolly get your) ADVERBS in our writing?

I have no clue. I just know it's one of those many rules out there and I seem to cringe every time I see a word ending with an -ly during the editing process.

Now, some examples, for what would a post about ADVERBS be without some examples? It would be dull and boring, and you know it!


He tilted his head slightly to the left. ~ ADVERB

He tilted his head a bit to the left. ~ no ADVERB

He smiled slightly. ~ ADVERB

His mouth turned up in a slight smile. ~ no ADVERB

He laughed loudly. ~ ADVERB

His laugh was loud. ~ no ADVERB

He walked swiftly down the hall. ~ ADVERB

He walked down the hall at a swift pace. ~ no ADVERB

Okay, so it's possible, for the most part to write without ADVERBS. The only problem I see is that the words increase when writing without ADVERBS. Now, if you're low on word count and need some excess words. GREAT. FANTASTIC. BRILLIANT. Oh, wait, I have the opposite problem in my current revision process. I have too many words and need to delete unnecessary words. CRAP! Yes, CRAP!

Now, if I wanted to break the dreaded ADVERB use rule, I could just let the characters laugh loudly, smile slightly, and walk swiftly. Great, no problem. Oh wait, someone, somewhere down the line, is going to make me eliminate those pesky ADVERBS. Big, dramatic, drama queen moment SIGH!

So, question for the moment: how do you handle ADVERBS in your writing? Do your characters just laugh and smile? Do they do it the same way every time? Do they never walk swiftly? Do they only walk or run? Do they tilt their heads a bit to the left and/or right, or do their heads tilt slightly to the left and right? Am I going too swiftly for you with all these questions? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Have a great day!



Angie Ledbetter said...

I use the lovely -ly words too often. Gotta include those in my next Search & Destroy revision mission.

The adverb rule is probably meant to discourage telling vs. showing. :)

Justus M. Bowman said...

"Now, if you're low on word count and need some excess words."

Shh. Don't give away my secrets.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think everything in moderation...but yes, some people use it as filler. I feel like you should do what feels natural and be true to yourself. Often getting caught up in all these rules tends to stifle our writing.

Davin Malasarn said...

Scott, here's my interpretation of the no adverb rule. Don't use adverbs when a better verb will do the trick. Often, an adverb allows you to be lazy about the verb. Instead of "he walked quickly," you could say, "he hustled" for example. That gets rid of the adverb without increasing word count, and it usually results in more interesting language use. I've also heard and liked the rule that you should use adverbs when they are unpredictable. "He smiled slightly," is something that is common and it can be predictable. But, "He smiled embarrassingly" --bad example, I know--might catch the read off guard and therefore be more interesting. That's when I allow myself to use them.

Scott said...

Angie - so glad I could add another facet to your Search & Destroy mission. Mine seems never ending.

Justus - so that explains your extraordinary word counts??? : )

Stephanie - great advice. I agree, as do others out there in the writing blogsphere, that sometimes the rules stifle just a bit too much.

Davin - thanks for the advice and suggestions. Since I'm only six chapters into the revisions, I'll see what words I can change.


ElanaJ said...

I use adverbs just like I use "was". Sometimes they do have a purpose. I try to use them sparingly, of course. LOL! (sparingly...get it? ahem.)

How I do it: I highlight adverbs in green on paper, while editing. If there are many green marks on a single page, I know I have to change something. One or two every few pages, no problem--at least in my book.

Mandy said...

I used to be an adverb junkie until someone pointed out to me that it was a huge "no-no"! Having it thrown in my face has turned me into a more conscientious writer. I focus more on the showing and I leave the 'ly' words behind.