June 12, 2023
A common piece of advice writers get is to ditch the adverbs in their projects. But is that right?
As with so many tips around writing, the answer is both yes and no.
Adverb + verb combos can usually be strengthened by finding a verb that actually means what the combo is trying to say. And when it’s strengthened, the imagery gets stronger with it, painting a better, more vivid scenario for readers to enjoy. For example, “they ran quickly” can be “they sprinted,” “they bolted,” “they rushed,” and so on, depending on the situation.
This is especially beneficial in picture books, since the word limit is so small. (Plus, kids might learn a fun new word!)
However, sometimes you just can’t find a verb that conveys the same idea as that combo. And that’s ok! You don’t want your writing to lose its intended meaning. So if it honestly can’t be replaced, don’t worry about it.
You also don’t want to litter your writing with as many synonyms for “ran quickly” as you can find. That just gets distracting. Not every adverb needs to be deleted, even if it can be replaced. Just make sure you know why you’re keeping it, and that the reason isn’t that you just couldn’t be bothered to try and strengthen it.
As always, make every word choice decision a conscious one. Each one needs to work for the content, especially in shorter content.
So take a look at your project and try and find each adverb – is each one truly important, or is there a stronger, sharper way to say it?
Want help with that? I’d be happy to work with you.
For now, happy adverb hunting!