015: Don't Promote Prose Bloat

Don't Promote Prose Bloat

Part 1: How Evil Are Adverbs?

September 2, 2016

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Have you heard yet that adverbs are evil? Writers often mention their critique groups cutting out all their lovely adverbs. And you can also find writing books vilifying adverbs as an archaic evil creeping into modern prose. So, are adverbs evil? And if so, how do you make sure to kill them all?


When you think of adverbs, you probably picture those –ly lovelies that shore up the dialogue tags:

“You’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” she said cuttingly.
“I love pillows,” he said softly.
“I invented the light bulb!” Edison said brightly.

But adverbs can be single words without an –ly also, and they can even be phrases. The key to whether something is an adverb is whether it adds more information to the verb.

She walks fast. [The adverb is "fast"]
Mark throws with precision. [The adverb is “with precision”]
Jack eats often. [The adverb is “often”]

So an adverb serves an informational purpose in a sentence; that’s good, right? So why are writers afraid of them? Sure, J.K.Rowling sprinkles them like spring rain through all of her Harry Potter books, but many editors frown on them. Why is that? Aren’t they a perfectly good part of speech? Don’t they serve a purpose?

Actually adverbs can be a very good thing.

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