Slaying the Adverbs, by Lindsay Bandy


Bandanna: check.

Machete, um, err, *cough* backspace button: check.

Field Guide *cough* Thesaurus: check.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Destroy all insidious and unnecessary adverbs enabling the existence of weak verbs. That’s right, my friend: You are now an adverb assassin.


Maybe you’ve read the Stephen King quote: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” But if you’re anything like me, you use them anyway. Like, very, very, very often. Actually, pretty regularly. Practically all the time….      But before you freak out about being on the road to hell, remember, adverbs aren’t always totally absolutely completely wrong. They are a legit part of speech, after all.

So, how do you know when an adverb needs to be whacked?

We use a lot of adverbs in regular, casual conversation. No big deal. But in writing, we can’t just settle on the first word that pops into our head. We  need to revise and polish. We can’t afford to be lazy. And one sign of being lazy is using weak verbs with  a tacked-on adverb.

A few examples of unnecessary adverbs:

He is very handsome. vs. He is sizzling.

It’s raining very hard. vs. It’s pouring.

“Stop!” he called loudly. vs. “Stop!” he screamed.

I know these examples are a little silly, but putting this kind of thing on your radar is a pretty easy way to edit and polish up your manuscript. Try this:

  • Using the FIND function in Microsoft Word, search for common and overused adverbs, such as very, totally, loudly, mostly, actually, softly. (Words with an -ly are usually a good tip-off)
  • When you come upon an adverb, test it. Can you use a stronger single word in place of an adverbial phrase? If so, whack it and replace it!!
  • Shorter isn’t always better. Sometimes a well-placed metaphor or simile can blow a boring adverbial phrase out of the water. —->>>Remember….a metaphor is a direct comparison: It’s raining t-rexes and elephants! And a simile uses like or as: Her voice was as grating as a cheese factory.)

The first time I did this, I cut my novel by almost 300 words. Good luck. And may only the strongest survive!


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3 Responses to Slaying the Adverbs, by Lindsay Bandy

  1. Slay way! Fun post Lindsay.

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