Adverbs or Not?

Discussion in 'Writer's Lounge' started by Angel, January 14, 2022.

  1. Angel

    Angel Munificent Critic

    "To boldly go where no man has gone before."

    Without an adverb where would SF's favourite split infinitive be? Yet there's been a trend in recent years to despise the humble adverb, and remove them from text wherever they appear.

    Somewhere between the purplest of prose and the sparest of technical text, is there a place for them?

    What do you think?
  2. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    I think this is an unfortunate trend in writing, much like the requirement to level all writing down to an American eighth grade level.

    If the verbs and nouns are the basic ingredients, adverbs and adjectives are the spice. Too many and you will ruin the result, but too few and no matter how good the base ingredients the result will be bland. The best approach is, as always, everything in moderation. Use them where they are needed.
  3. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    I know people like to remove them, but I find they add to work.
    One example they like to use is "She smiled happily," saying it is redundant because no one smiles any other way (How to Eliminate Adverbs). That is simply wrong, and they ended it with a comma so that opens up possibilities.

    Let's try a few sentences, and see how different adverbs change things.

    She smiled happily, while she drove the nails through his hands.
    She smiled coldly, while she drive the nails through his hands.
    She smiled professionally, while she drove the nails through his hands.

    None of these leave the same impression, and none of them mean the same as:

    She smiled, while she drove the nails through his hands.

    Admittedly I'd usually go for the last if I was writing third omni or third person close to the person hammering nails, but that is because I like to create distance. Close third, victim's or onlooker's POV, I'd use one of the ones above because that is what is creating the impression on the viewer.
  4. Post-Life Crisis

    Post-Life Crisis Active Member

    What would my life be without this?
  5. Terry

    Terry Active Member

    Is this a thing where some languages use them all the time and some just don't.

    I've never seen a problem with them and they always seem to add a lot to a sentence.
  6. Kindler

    Kindler Active Member

    Reminds me of that old saying: those who can do, those who can't teach. For the record, I have no thing against teachers they do a sterling job, for so little reward.

    Anyways, it's like people are being asked to stop using adverbs because the people making up the rules are crap at using adverbs and so if they can't use them properly, no-one else should.
  7. MHThaung

    MHThaung Member

    I use them copiously in early drafts, as a kind of shorthand reminder about what I was aiming for with that particular piece of text. I find them obtrusive when they tell the reader what to think, which is back to the show vs tell idea. Eg:

    "You're a $%^&!!! Get out of my house!!!" he shouted angrily, jabbing a finger towards the door.

    We don't *really* need that adverb to direct the reader, do we?
  8. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    I really like the example because it is such a good case where the adverb isn't necessary. The words are angry, the delivery is angry, and the action is angry, so the fact he is doing it angrily really doesn't need to be stated again. If he was doing it happily, the contrast makes me want to know what was going on, and whether he was serious (Example lead-in for happily: "You know I said no surprise party..." said his brother, with a smirk.).

    But in that respect, are adverbs any different to any other word? If it doesn't add to the reader's impression, should any word really be there?*

    *Adhering to this is why I get into trouble for word counts that are lower than agents like.
  9. MHThaung

    MHThaung Member

    I expect not. Since they exist solely to modify other words (I'm sure there's a proper terminology for this), it's maybe easier to use them redundantly/excessively/inappropriately...
  10. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    This can only remind me of the Redundant Department of Redundancy phrase that keeps coming up. It may be worse with adverbs because they are often either stating something that would be better expanded upon, or they are merely restating what is already stated. They do not add emphasis, unlike many other modifiers.

    Adjectives fall prey to this quite often. I quote: "his deep, oceanic, pale blue, azurite eyes". Please, call them blue and move on to the plot.
  11. MHThaung

    MHThaung Member

    Do I detect a hint of purple there? :p
  12. Angel

    Angel Munificent Critic

    I still shudder at the books that do this. There is little worse than a story padding it's word count by using four adjectives when one will do.

  13. Post-Life Crisis

    Post-Life Crisis Active Member

    Nah, purple only has two lines in the thesaurus.:D
  14. atry

    atry Active Member

    Do people object to flat adverbs the same way? Phrases like like sit tight are adverbs but there's no -ly at the end. It would be funny if what is hated on is the -ly ending.

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