Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Your Adverbs Are Literally Killing Me

It would seem that I have not published a true writing post in some time, and I would like to address that deficiency! Here, you will find my opinions about the use of adverbs in fiction (and, I suppose, in poetry).

If you've taken a creative writing class at anything beyond the beginning level, you have heard that adverbs are bad for your writing. But why is that true? Another adage that writing instructors employ is that old one we all get sick of hearing: "Show, don't tell." By combining this with the directive to avoid adverbs, we have our answer.

Consider the following sentences:

1) She walked swiftly to the edge of the field, breathing heavily.

2) She jogged to the edge of the field, her breath coming in short bursts.

Which seems more informative to you? The one where the adverbs are doing the work, or the one where the verbs and adjectives take the reins? If you think the answer is the former, you may need to reconsider your affinity for adverbs.

You see, "walked swiftly" could mean a few different things: power-walking, a slow jog, a panicked shuffle, and so on. Jogging, on the other hand, indicates a specific type of movement. This is why precise verbs are more important than modifiers, which are often vague.

The same is true in the second half of the sentence, where "breathing heavily" may mean panting, gasping, or over-filling the lungs. Replacing this with "short bursts" clarifies the picture for the reader.

Next time you're writing, keep this in mind. It will help you weed out weaker spots and improve your sentences!


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