We writers hold it in such low regard. Yes, I know, a strong verb has more muscle than a modifier.
“He yelled,” packs more punch than: “He said loudly.”
And yet, listening to my nephew Logan reading the opening pages of a “Harry Potter” book this past holiday, I was struck by how fond J.K. Rowling seemed to be of the lowly adverb. She had sprinkled adverbs throughout those pages and they did not appear to upset or disturb Logan in any way.
I noticed, but I am a cranky reporter and often envious of the freedoms enjoyed by those who practice less constrained writing. Many a writing mentor has red-lined and otherwise scolded the adverb out of me. Maybe the Brits don’t mind it as much.
So is the adverb all that bad? Is it the “um” of writing, a little placeholder while we collect our thoughts?
A sentence’s rhythm and sound are as important as meaning.
So true. It’s something I often forget when banging out copy on deadline.
Shannon Howell said:
Sometimes adverbs are the only way to go.
If somebody walks briskly, that’s different from walking, but not running. You could probably have them hurry, but maybe the brisk walk isn’t because of rushing, maybe it’s because of anger.
I say (and really, who am I to say?) the only words we should look down on are the words that don’t tell the story the right way. Now the trick is, to figure out which way is right.
I like that. Finding the right words for the particular story. Annie Dillard’s most excellent “The Writing Life” gets at this. I’ll dig it out and post something when I get a minute.
Shannon Howell said:
I look forward to seeing it.
Intrepid Girl said:
I had the adverbs hammered out of my work in undergrad, as well, and in creative writing I think the problem is that they do more telling than showing. I use adverbs only when showing something with more description isn’t worth the effort or if the adverb is really lovely in the flow of the sentence. They don’t tend to bother me in other people’s work but I find I’m a little more wow’d by lines that “show.”