016: Don't Promote Bloat Part 2

Don't Promote Prose Bloat

Part 2: Is it EVER Okay to Use an Adverb?

September 9, 2016

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Why is Harry Potter full of adverbs? Mostly to make the tag lines feel interesting to the writer. That’s pretty much the same reason adverbs clutter up the tag lines of many examples of beginning writing. Let’s face it, tag lines just feel boring. They aren’t particularly active and they feel redundant…he said, she said, he said, she said. As writers, we hate the idea that anything we write is boring so we look for ways to jazz it  up. And adverbs feel like one way, but without care, adverbs can become a little silly.

“I could eat you up!” he snapped bitingly.

“Get away from me!” he yelled loudly.

One excellent cure for the tagline blahs is to alternate a little narrative action for the tag lines; this gets more movement into the scene, increases our sense of being there, and adds sentence variety. Another cure is to cut tags if the speaker is extremely clear and you want to create a brisker pace. A balance between simple tag lines (using said or asked), the rare unusual tag verb (whispered or bellowed, but never queried or continued, keep it simple enough to add without distracting), narrative action, and simply untagged speech will quickly cure the tag line blahs. Then you can add your adverbs to tag lines only when you know they’re the perfect word for the job.

“If you need an adverb,” he said decisively. “Then use an adverb!”

When is it okay to use an adverb? Click the button to listen to the episode and find out!

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Sheri Rad
September 17, 2016

Thanks for clearing this up but I don't ever use adverbs in my picture book manuscripts. I learned not to do that in picture book writing classes from you Brain Burps and other sites. Thanks.

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