If it doesn't add meaning, nix the adverb
06/12/11 14:08 Filed in: Writing
In everyday spoken English, adverbs run amok. We kneel down; we close up, we pass things over to one another; we gather together; we follow behind; we cancel out each other’s votes and so on and on. The problem occurs when excess adverbs sneak into our writing. In many cases they add clutter rather than clarify meaning. When editing, check your use of adverbs and delete those that don't add value. In some instances, you can strengthen your prose by getting rid of a weak adverb and verb combo and substituting a strong verb. Instead of ”She spoke softly.” for instance, write “She whispered." In Write Tight: How To Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise, writer-editor William Brohaugh says adverbs do earn their keep at times. For example, he mentions the case when a verb-adverb combination can’t be distilled into a single word, such as in the sentence “He studiously ignored his father.” As Brohaugh points out, that sentence works because no single English word describes the concept of going to pains to make it clear one is not noticing something.