Beware of Adverbs

Adverbs answer the questions when, where, why, how, or under what conditions something happened. They often end in -ly but can come in other forms too (often, even, during, indeed, much, quite, so, very, etc.).

adverb collageSo, what’s wrong with using adverbs?

Verbs are arguably the strongest part of the sentence. They should stand out and convey the meaning of the sentence. Adverbs can weaken the verb or repeat what the verb has already said.

Example 1:

“The tornadocompletely destroyed the house.”

Isn’t it already implied with the word “destroyed” that the house is no longer intact? If it weren’t “completely destroyed,” it would just be damaged. Now look at it without the adverb:

“The tornado destroyedthe house.”

It looks as if “completely” intensifies “destroyed,” but it does not add any extra meaning to the sentence and is not necessary.

Example 2:

“The spy sneakily crawled through the bushes.”

Spies are sneaky. Crawling through bushes is sneaky. “Sneakily” doesn’t have to be added to this sentence to prove the spy was being sneaky.

Another way to combat these adverbs is to use description or change the verb.

“The tornado ripped through the neighborhood leaving fragments of houses, shards of glass, and private belongings scattered across the town.”

“The spy crouched to his stomach and slithered under the bush to observe the top-secret conversation.”

“She wentquickly down the stairs” canbecome “She dashed down the stairs.”

Try reviewing your paper and picking out -ly words. Delete it and see if the sentence contains the same meaning. Maybe it even strengthens the sentence to eliminate it.

Adverbs have their place, but they should be used with caution.


Happy writing,


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