Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mission: Abolish Adverbs

If you want your writing to truly stand out, go through your short story/ screenplay/ poem/ novel/ whatever, and remove every last adverb.

We've all heard the maxim "Show; don't tell." Showing the reader what something is: good writing: Telling the reader what something is: Bad writing. And adverbs are a sure sign of telling.

For example: Say your character 'runs quickly'. WELL DUH. If you're running, you're gonna be pretty darn quick. If you've already got the right verb, your adverb should be redundant.

If your adverb isn't redundant-- to be redundant myself: if it actually adds new information-- then you need a better verb. If 'run' really doesn't tell the reader how quick the character is, you need to pick a verb like 'sprint' or 'hurl' that really gets the point across.

Adverbs are lazy writing, for people too lazy to find the right word.

Furthermore, the vast majority of adjectives aren't even real words. With the exception of 'well', they're mostly just adjectives with 'ly' at the end. Quickly. Patronzingly. Angrily. Butt-kickingly.

If you can't figure out how to show the reader that a character is quick, patronized, angry, or about to kick some serious butt, then here's a hint: ADDING AN ADVERB WON'T MAKE YOU SOUND CLEVER. It'll make you sound like a second grader. Don't be too lazy to find the right word. Take the effort to say what you mean, and your writing will seem more real. And never, ever tell the reader something is 'sad'. If you haven't showed them, then telling them will only make you even more pathetic.

That is all, folks. Please take my rant to heart. You'll be a better writer for it. I promise.

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