Adverbs, particularly those ending in -ly, have gone out of fashion these days. Many advisors to writers are now advising that we not use them. Preferably not at all. Or, if we must, then as seldom as possible. Naturally (oops), this leads to the question: What should a writer should use instead?
Here are some answers.
- When the adverb is a qualifier (mostly, somewhat, possibly, very, extremely, actually, etc.), just don’t use it. Most sentences are stronger without the qualifier. Try it and see. I promise you: You NEVER need “very”. Ever.
- Use strong, picturesque verbs, nouns, and adjectives instead of weak ones with descriptors. For example, replace “He spoke loudly” with “He shouted” or “screamed” or “ranted.”
- Use metaphors. Instead of “He looked at her vacuously” try “He looked as if he hadn’t had a thought in weeks.”
- Substitute an adjective. Thank heavens adjectives are still in fashion. Many writers do this these days. Instead of “She glared at him angrily” they write “She glared at him, angry.” Personally, I think this is a bastardization of the language, but many of these writers otherwise know their craft.
- Substitute a prepositional phrase. “She glared at him in anger.” Hey, now you’ve got a rock-solid NOUN here!
If you are beginning to find this list arbitrary and even a bit nonsensical, please join the crowd. Many writers, published and not, rightly find the current campaign against adverbs unwarranted. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that all the great writers used adverbs. Even Shakespeare used adverbs.
This is a fashion we’re talking about, folks, and like all fashions, it will pass. Take the good parts and ignore the nonsensical ones. Lose the qualifiers. Strengthen nouns and especially verbs. Choose dynamic adjectives. Find metaphors that wake your readers up. Then, if you still have a place for them, use adverbs that sing. And use them effectively.