Elizabeth’s post about Nancy Drew earlier this month brought up some reasons for the success of that series. It brought to mind one of the things that pops into my head whenever I see the blanket advice that adverbs are bad – cut them. The ghost writers for the Nancy Drew series used adverbs heavily – Nancy and Ned and Bess and George did everything somehow-ly. When I write my first draft, I also use a lot of adverbs. In editing, I type ly in the find box and try to strengthen the verb that is qualified by the adverb. Sometimes I can and sometimes I like the way I wrote it in the first place.
I found a good article about removing all those ‘bad’ things. In it, the author states that the great literary writers used passive voice and adverbs to layer complexity in their stories. I saw another one in which the author said he listened to a best-selling author tell a group to never use the word said because it’s boring and repetitious. The writer said to never repeat verbs that deal with speaking. The author of the article then gave a funny excerpt where he did this using words like mumbling, shouting, profaning, teasing, snarling, squealing, averring, blaming, and even ejaculating. It ended up being more of a joke than a passage of fiction.
Getting rid of all these bad things – adverbs, passive voice, gerunds – can lead to homogenous writing. This sentence is a good one (IMHO): Softly, slyly, Sylvia leaned close to Buck and said, “Let’s you and me spend a little time together, and never whisper a word about it to your wife.” It breaks some of those ‘never use’ rules and I like it. I will continue to search my manuscripts for *ly, was/were, and *ing, but I will cut them judiciously.
For those of us who remember Saturday morning cartoons and Schoolhouse Rock – Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here.
How do you feel about these rules? Do you break them intentionally or do you follow them?