Adverbially Speaking

Recently, I’ve heard various writing teachers dismiss the use of adverbs, particularly in fiction writing. While adverbs can certainly weaken a story, at times they are necessary. 

Here are some times when adverbs are called for:

  • When you are indicating time. For example, She arrived late.
  • When your meaning requires it. For example, He exhaled forcefully (as opposed to a simple exhalation).
  • When you are locating your character in space. For example, He stood nearby.
  • When you are indicating numerical or chronological order. For example, First, he unlocked the door.
  • When you need to qualify an adjective. For example, She is highly qualified (as opposed to just qualified).

So use adverbs with discretion. Too much of a good thing is bad. But too little of a good thing can be equally bad.

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3 thoughts on “Adverbially Speaking

  1. I recently saw a well known author’s quote about how adverbs ‘pave the road to..’, well, let’s just say it was the opposite of heaven. And on one hand I agree that they are overused, but on the other, they are necessary. Thanks for clarifying it and giving examples. Have a good weekend! 🙂

    September 11, 2009 at 11:39 AM

  2. A well-placed adverb is like adding just enough spice to your cooking. I agree they are sometimes necessary and often overused, but think about how bland a story would be without them.

    September 12, 2009 at 8:32 AM