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Two reasons to delete adverbs from your writing

Readers are smart and smart people don’t need to be told how to feel when they read your story.

The best way to get your readers to feel is, of course, to evoke those emotions within them. As a writer, you do that by using strong nouns and verbs and creating meaningful images and scenes. You don’t do that by using adverbs.

According to author and poet Jack Remick, relying on adverbs to tell our readers how to feel is a lazy way to get to emotion.

In his insightful interview with Joel Chafetz, Remick gives an example of a poorly used adverb—“Get out of here, she said sternly,”—and says it can easily be replaced with something stronger such as, “Get your butt out of here,” she growled.

Another reason Remick says he hates adverbs is because they hide images.

“The poet in me bridles when a writer gives me this—“He dug furiously at the dirt covering the furtively buried corpse…” Come on. Furtively buried? Dug furiously?” You can do better than that. Rip out that adverb and you leave a hole in the sentence. Fill the hole with a strong verb and you get an image: He scraped handfuls of dirt from the pus filled wounds…”

Remick’s novel Blood is a testament to strong writing, without adverbs, that grabs the reader’s emotions and doesn’t let go.

To see how he uses timed writing to construct his scenes, read my earlier post, “Write a scene in 30 minutes.”

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. It’s such a simple idea but it makes such a difference. I know my first drafts are always death-by-adverbs. You’re so committed to dictating to the reader exactly what they should be imagining and feeling. But less is more and you need to trust your reader. You are absolutley right.

    May 29, 2013
  2. Adverbs are words like any other. They exist because our language needs them. But they are often used to shore up weak writing, like duct tape where a screw is the right solution.

    June 19, 2013

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