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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Opinion of one editor: Adverbs can be okay

Most writers hear we should never use adverbs. The cat loudly meowed. The kitten crept slowly along the carpet.

Most editors will take these out. The cat meowed. The kitten crept along the carpet.

When should you use adverbs? Too many adverbs, in my opinion, clutter a reading experience. But look at the above sentences. In the first example, saying it was a loud meow makes a difference. In the second example, the word "crept" indicated that it was slow movement. Don't need the adverb.

My advice is to not depend on adverbs to emphasize actions. Your verb should do that job. Sometimes, you want a little emphasis, and when you use an adverb to do that, think it over and choose just the right one.

I would change the first example to a stronger verb. The cat howled. I would take "slowly" out of the second example.

A fine place to use an adverb is in action sequences. If your verb doesn't do the action justice, carefully pick an adverb.

The litter screamed while mama cat settled in gently to feed her babes.

The litter screamed while mama cat settled in to feed her babes.

Adding "gently" says something about how mama cat feels about her kittens.

Use adverbs sparingly and with some good thought.