Adverbs! I am not alone

I was pleased to see this post today at the There Are No Rules blog at the Writer’s Digest site: The Much Maligned Adverb.

The guest poster, Jim Adam, makes the point that while adverbs sometimes do get overused, occasionally they are necessary too. This is something I have been arguing with people about for quite a while now. The current rage is to strip all adverbs out of everything, searching instead for “strong verbs” that can stand alone and carry all the narrational weight on their own.

In my own writing, I’ve recognized that adverbs can indeed serve to shore up verbs that are too weak for the function they’re supposed to fulfill. I’ve enjoyed correcting this problem when I find it, looking for those stronger verbs, and I think my writing has improved as a result.

Yet I think the idea that all adverbs must be obliterated is not only an unbalanced view, as Adam says, but it’s inaccurate too. The darn things came into existence for a reason, as modifiers, and sometimes you simply can’t do without them. Sometimes the gymnastics you have to go through to say the same thing without using an adverb get ridiculous. Adam gave an example, contrasting “with a reluctant grin” and “grinning reluctantly.” When you find yourself multiplying words just to skirt a single word that would have said it all, maybe the darned adverb is the right word.

I’m grateful for Mr. Adam’s post. I don’t feel quite so much the solitary voice crying out in the desert any more.


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