The Adverb: Bastard Child of the English Language?

Since when did the adverb become so demonized in the writing world?  Even the grand master pooh bah , Stephen King, has written an article on why we should not use them.  And I understand that in a lot of of instances, his advice is right on and makes for tighter, cleaner writing.

However, before we completely disregard the poor adverb, we should realize that there are times when nothing but an adverb will do.  Take for example, the sentence, “He spoke softly.”  One would argue that, “He whispered.” is a stronger and more concise way of stating the same thing.  However, what if whoever this theoretical person was trying to whisper to was across the room instead of right beside him.  Then he might have to “whisper loudly” in order for the person to hear him.

In his article, King uses the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” and argues that the same idea can be accurately conveyed with the more precise sentence, “He slammed the door.”  However anybody who has ever lived with a butt load of kids in a house with a no slamming rule knows that there really is a difference between slamming a door and closing it firmly.  Slamming a door will get your xbox privileges revoked, whereas closing it firmly will simply get you a warning that you are walking a thin line.  You can’t always tell from context.  My kids can be straight up ticked off, but they will not slam that door.  Not if they want to live.  They will want to, but they won’t do it.

So, basically, what my aimless rambling comes down to is this:  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Sure you can go overboard with adverbs (and honestly I feel the same way about adjectives as well), but we don’t have to completely banish them to writer’s exile on the basis that they are always redundant.  Sometimes an adverb is just the thing to convey exactly what is going on in your story.

Rediscovering my inspiration.

The poor adverb isn’t all bad.

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2 Comments

  1. Gran trabajo .. Gracias

    Reply
  1. The Grand Poobahs Speak — Who’s Right? « Gloria Bowman

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