Adverbs: Persona Non Grata

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Even if you’re not a professional writer – even if you don’t write to other human beings very often – you have to read this post from Kathy Steinemann (@KathySteinemann) titled “6 Ways to Reduce “-ly” Adverb Abuse: A Word List for Writers.”

Talk about someone who’s committed to her craft! If you can believe it, Ms. Steinemann makes Stephen King look weak when it comes to the latter’s distaste for adverbs.

This post is no joke and will open your eyes as to how to improve your writing in a relatively simple way. You should definitely read the whole well-researched piece, but her six ways to address/slash and burn adverbs can be summarized as follows:

1. Choose stronger verbs

Instead of Harold walked softly toward the door, try Harold tiptoed toward the door.

2. Analyze adverbs of degree

Instead of saying astonishingly harsh, try abrasive, caustic, or rough.

3. Reject redundant adverbs that modify adjectives

Instead of absolutely catastrophicbadly broken, and relish greatly, try catastrophic, broken and relish, respectively. 

4. Delete redundant adverbs that modify verbs

Instead of caress lovingly, try caress.

5. Watch for –ly adjectives (if an -ly word modifies a noun or pronoun, it’s an adjective)

The teenager’s voice was crackly.

The teenager had a crackly voice.

The blow he delivered was deadly.

He delivered a deadly blow.

6. Delete suddenly.

Here are just a few examples of other ways to say the same word:

All at once
All of a sudden
At once
At that moment

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