In Stephen King's book On Writing, he claims the overuse of adverbs shows a writer's fear. Mr. King avoids using adverbs in his writing because he says, "Adverbs weaken your writing."
I agree wholeheartedly, and have come to notice and dislike the use of adverbs when I read. One time a New York publishing editor told me the best way to spot a 'newbie writer' is their use of adverbs in a manuscript. Here's an example of what she meant (in fact, I think she wrote it in the margins): He kissed her soundly. "What really matters to a reader is that he kissed her. If you feel a need to define the kiss you might say: He kissed her hard and with heartfelt passion." See, that tells the reader his kiss was bold and demanding. Soundly is a weak word to describe a kiss. .
Read the following three sentences (without the use of adverbs)
‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.
In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution.
Now, read the same three sentences, and I think you'll agree with the originator (Brain Pickings web site). "The three latter sentences are all weaker than the first three and most readers will see why."
‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.
Brain Pickings continues to say, "Adverbs are like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late."
Adverbs pull a reader out of the story. Too many can really bog the entire story down. It's more vivid and exciting to write: He slammed the door. Rather than: He closed the door firmly. Here's another example. You decide which brings forth an immediate feeling/ambiance about the room. Heat filled the room entirely. Or, Heat emanated from every corner of the room.
Even worse, adverbs are many times redundant.
Running quickly for the end zone, the widely recruited fullback tripped. (If he's RUNNING, doesn't that convey speed? And, if he was recruited does it matter if it was widely?)
After she looked carefully in both directions, Mary sprinted across. (The point is Mary looked both ways. We don't need to know she did it carefully).
Now that Royce has arrived safely, the group can settle down. (If Royce hadn't arrived safely the group wouldn't be settled down, would they?)
Ginger spoke glowingly of Kyoko’s extraordinary acting skills. (It should be obvious to the reader, if she's speaking about "her extraordinary skills, it would be glowing. Duh.)
Here's a double whammy: Speak softly into the microphone or we will suffer greatly. (Speak into the microphone or we'll suffer). That's all one needs to write.
I know, I know, writers love adverbs. I did too at one time. That's not to say I NEVER use them, but when I'm in the editing process I search for all "ly" words and cull 4 out of 5. I use them very sparingly (pun intended).
Try it. I think you'll discover your manuscript reads better, flows fast and smooth, and doesn't pull the reader out of your fabulous story.
Write tight. Get rid of those nasty adverbs. In other words, cut to the chase and before long, you'll know right away when you type another adverb.
Happy writing and Happy reading,
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