Adverbs are terribly out of favor, and I frankly cannot understand why. I personally love them.
Granted, they’re the first words to go on Twitter, where description is not rewarded. And the who, what, why, when, where, how format of hard news doesn’t typically allow for adverbs, nor adjectives either, for that matter. But in all other prose, I find adverbs to be the quintessence of amplified description, offering me an added twist to the meaning of a verb or phrase.
Verbs can have many meanings, after all, and the adverb serves as clarification for the precise reader. It’s that little extra tidbit of information that draws more me precisely into a story.
The Hemingway App has become popular with writers who seek to weed out all such offending adverbs. When you first arrive at the free desktop Hemingway Editor [HERE], you’ll be told to copy and paste something you’re working on, or to compose something new, because the “Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.” I’m all for bold, clear writing; I’m just not against describing, too, but the site advises you otherwise:
Some have taken issue with the advice to get rid of adverbs. Notably, one was a expert literary magazine, The New Yorker, in an article HERE that analyzed Ernest Hemingway’s own use of adverbs on his own writing. He didn’t manage to eliminate them, not by a long shot. We can assume, therefore, that he intended to use adverbs, either for emphasis or clarity.
Despite Stephen King’s succinct contention “the adverb is not your friend,” it does have its defenders. Maddie Crum, books editor at the Huffington Post, bemoaned the “smear campaign against them,” reminding writers that adverbs tell us more about verbs, and when they’re used effectively, they’re pretty damned effective. (She makes a great case for using adverbs to “enhance writing, rather than detract from it;” read her entire article HERE.)
Elmore Leonard confessed, “Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.” (Of course he did.)
We’re in a period where we admire writers whose prose is to the point; hence, the reverence for the likes of Hemingway, Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard (whose fourth rule of writing is “Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said”). When Leonard penned those rules in his New York Times essay for ‘Writers on Writing’ in 2001 [HERE], he lumped his 10 rules into a category of writing faux pas inspired by John Steinbeck’s term, hooptedoodle (what a great word, isn’t it? Totally made up.). And then Elmore Leonard confessed, “Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.”
That’s just it. As far as adverbs go, and descriptive writing in general, I admire the way a good writer puts her words together. The lusher the description is, the better; the visual imagery I imagine from reading those lush words is what keeps me reading on. And when adverbs add to the texture of the writing, I’m not likely to count them so much as I’m likely to gain a better understanding of the character.
Now, if you really want to get your literary panties in a grammar wad, take a look at Dictionary.com’s Six Words That Can Ruin Your Sentence, HERE. (Honestly, I actually never basically like using such literally ruinous words, personally, that is. Do you?) ♣
Where do you stand on the evils of adverbs? Please use the Comments to explain why.
Using the Hemingway Editor to detect the dreaded adverbs, my count for this piece is 16. If you see one that didn’t thrill the pants off you when you read it, please let me know in the Comments. Find more on the art of writing creatively HERE.Want to learn more about my upcoming novel? Subscribe HERE