Thursday, June 3, 2010

"He said sincerely"

I hate adverbs. I especially hate -ly adverbs, as you may have noticed in my "suddenly" post. They do have their moments, but in general they slow down the verb they are seeking to modify or enhance, a giant, blood-sucking leech on the butt of your brilliant sentence.

"His frown grotesquely shifted into a grin." Yuck. How about, "His frown shifted into a grotesque grin." Or, if the sentences leading up to that sentence are doing their jobs, then "His frown shifted into a grin" may well be enough. When measuring the drag factor of your adverbs, there's a simple test--cut it out. See if you notice the loss. In most cases, I'll bet you won't.

"Slowly" is about the only one I can tolerate, but even then, your prose is likely strong enough to live without the crutch. "He slowly inched his way through the drain pipe." Well, how ELSE would he inch? Quickly? Measuredly?

"The door loudly banged open." "Bang" did the job. We get it.

"To boldly go where no man has gone before." No, let's go with great timidity to giant flaming holes in space.

Used in dialogue tags, all you are doing is admitting you don't have confidence as a writer, and don't trust your reader. The only time I'll support it is in parody or humor, when the line actually jars with the character's intent--"You'll obey my every command," he said meekly.

Adverbs. Do us all a favor. Let them die. Quickly, quietly, eternally. Sincerely.

Which adverbs would YOU like to kill?