This Monday's #WritersRoad chat on Twitter got me to thinking about adverbs and inspired me to write this post. A great man once said, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs," and I think he may be at least partially right. Who am I to argue with the King after all? ;) I'm guessing he read many of the same books I did while growing up (though not at the same time as he is many years my senior), books that are riddled with adverbs.
If you have books on your shelves that date back more than ten years, pull a few out and take a look at them. Most likely you will find a plethora of adverbs. Some will be tagged onto the end of dialogue, others will be gratuitously sprinkled throughout the sentences, fattening them like bloated corpses (sorry, a bit of the King's influence I'm afraid, the corpses, not the adverbs). So, if it was so accepted then, why is it no longer? I'm glad you asked.
Many will say it is that people's attention spans are not what they used to be, and that's part of it. But the more important part is that writing has evolved. We no longer need excessive words that only end up repeating what was already said (she ran swiftly, she mumbled quietly). Such things bog down a sentence and take away from it's power. Adverbs have their place and I certainly don't think we should do away with them altogether. However, if we use them sparingly and with careful wisdom, then we unlock their power and the magic of a truly great novel.
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