Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Adverbs

Happy New Year!

I'm tackling adverbs from both sides this week. On one hand, writers are told to use adverbs sparingly. Please note the use of the adverb "sparingly" in that sentence :) On the other hand, some critiquers and contest judges get carried away with it, marking every word that could be construed as an adverb. Overkill!

BTW, a lot of adverbs end in -ly, but not all of them. Some adverbs are also other parts of speech in context. Don't assume the word is an adverb without checking how it's used.

In some/many cases, a stronger verb makes the adverb unnecessary.


1) Jane walked softly up the stairs to avoid making them creak.

Rather than using "softly," you can replace "walked" with a stronger verb, like "tiptoed" or "crept." The writing is tighter, more succinct, and more effective.

2) Silently watching her climb the stairs, Callum waited to see where Jane planned to snoop.

Can you think of a word to replace "watching" when it's done "silently?" Off the top of my head, neither can I. The sentence could be rewritten to omit the adverb, but occasional use is OKAY. The manuscript doesn't have to be adverb-free.

Adverb or...something else?


3) Jane pulled a lovely silk gown from the trunk.

"Lovely" ends in -ly, but is it an adverb? No. It's describing the gown (a noun), so "lovely" is an adjective.

4) The floor creaked somewhere behind her, so she ducked under the bed.

"So" is often an adverb, describing an adjective to tell how much. In this example, "so" is used as a conjunction to join two independent clauses. Without it, we'd have a comma splice. Remember those???

5) The very tips of Callum's boots rested on Jane's sleeve, trapping her against the floor.

"Very" is almost always an adverb--and one that shouldn't be used in narrative. Use only when emphasis is needed in dialogue. In this sentence, however, it's an adjective because it describes the tips of Callum's boots (a noun).

Use the rule of moderation with adverbs. Know what they are, what they aren't, and how to use them correctly and effectively.

Next up--Adjectives!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. This is a concise blog that is helpful. I appreciate all your hard work on your Wednesday blogs. :)

    1. Thanks, Morgan! And you're welcome :) Glad you stopped by!

  2. Love WTW! I can't wait for next week! :o)

  3. Great information! Thanks, Mellanie. :D

    1. You're welcome, Noelle! Thanks for stopping by :)