Thursday, February 21, 2013

Banning Adverbs

Ever since I began writing, my biggest fan and critic, my husband, has been after me about my adverb usage.  Even before I started writing, he was critical of any author who was too free in their usage of the 'ly' words.  I remember when he read the Harry Potter books.  We would be sitting in bed, side by side, and all of a sudden he would say,
     "Someone needs to teach JK Rowling how to use an adverb."  Then he would read a few off of every page.  As he reviewed my writing, he would, as a matter of routine, scratch out every adverb I used.
     "You don't need them," he would tell me.  "Your dialog carries meaning - let it speak for itself.  Don't insult your readers." After several editing sessions, I have learned to avoid the dreaded adverb.  No longer does anyone say anything 'softly' or 'sarcastically' or 'loudly',in my writing.  I let the reader determine how the words are said, hoping that my meaning is conveyed.   In fact, I've even learned to avoid words like 'quickly' or 'gingerly'.  I search frantically for another way to say that a person's gaze was intense, or mischievous.  My thesaurus has become my best friend.
Today, while perusing Facebook, I noticed a post from one of my daughters to another.  It was all about new punctuation needed to convey meaning.  I realized as  I read, and chuckled over the article, that if we used these punctuation marks, we wouldn't need adverbs at all! (or need them on rare occasions)

Here's the link to the new punctuation:

Of course, if you have punctuation to take the place of an that the same as using one?  Is a question mark or exclamation point the same as telling a person how something was spoken, or how an action was performed? Perhaps the benefit of new punctuation is not having to use any extra words for description.

I must admit...I really did like the graduated ellipses   There is such a fine line between wanting someone to pause, (as in comma use) or pause for a long period of time before continuing to read.

And as I write this blog, it occurs to me that if we ban adverbs...are adjectives next?  Will it be poor writing to describe a woman with long, wavy, blonde hair?  Will it be deemed inappropriate to say that your leading man has piercing, sky-blue eyes with thick, dark lashes so long that they could comb his partner's hair?

Perhaps it would just be best if we ban the ridiculous and the cliche.  A famously brilliant idea if you ask me!


  1. You know, Brian does have sky-blue eyes, and his eyelashes ARE pretty long...I'm just not sure he could comb someone's hair with them...or that we would want him to haha

  2. If someone's eyelashes are so long that they can comb hair, this must be mentioned!

    I really think a lot of description use depends on the kind of writer and reader you are. I often skip over too much description, but you obviously need enough to be able to picture something in your head. Although, I think I often skip the authors descriptions of settings and characters because I already know how I want to place the story... (that's a regular ellipse to represent a trailed off thought ;) <-- and that's an obnoxious emoticon.