Another well-reasoned tirade AGAINST ‘Thou Shalt Not Use Adverbs!’

This is an old (from 2017!) tirade against the anti-adverb nonsense so common in “internet wisdom” on writing, and I’d somehow forgotten to share it before, so… 

The most common argument I’ve seen against the use of adverbs (*) amounts to, “Some people do it badly, so no one should do it at all.”

Do you have any idea how illogical that is? By that line of reasoning, no one should drive a car, raise a child, play a musical instrument, or give advice on writing. After all, there are people who do each of those things very badly

I also see a lot of straw-man arguments put forth: “If you think it’s ever okay to use adverbs, you must think it’s best to use adverbs all over the place and especially in every single dialogue tag.” 

Friends, there are a hell of a lot of adverbs that don’t get mentioned in those Thou Shalt Not Adverb articles. Those adverbs don’t get mentioned either because the writer doesn’t know they’re adverbs (quite possible, considering the grammatical ignorance of so many “experts” these days) or doesn’t want to mention that not all adverbs end in –ly, because that would mess up their claims that they never use adverbs and therefor are far better writers than you are. (*rolls eyes*)

I recently read (half of) a novel in which -ly adverbs were used all over the place, often in ways that added nothing to the sentences where they appeared. (Y’know how ran quickly doesn’t work because running is quick? The same goes for shouted loudly or hid furtively or whatever.) Also, the writer seemed to think that –ly adverbs should be set off with commas from the rest of the sentence: He shouted, loudly, at his kid brother. This is bad writing. Just using the occasional modifier for a verb is not bad writing. (I’ll say it again: If you really believe that absolute avoidance of adverbs is a worthwhile goal for any writer, prove it can be done. If you can’t do it yourself, at least point out a writer who has done it. You can probably find such a writer hanging out with rainbow-eating unicorns and the Easter Bunny — the Loch Ness Monster, being a plesiosaur, is a bit too real for such company.)

(*) Aside from, “Stephen King said…,” that is. First of all, he didn’t actually say to avoid all adverbs, all the time. Second, he used several adverbs in that rather short essay: about a dozen, not including the ones used as examples of what not to do. Seriously, friends, if you’re gonna listen to anyone about the One True Way to Write Fiction, at least make sure they follow their own rules. “Oh, but you could rewrite Some people do it badly so it doesn’t have an adverb: Some people don’t do it well. So there!” Um… No. Not is an adverb. Well is also an adverb. You lose… 🙂



About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Another well-reasoned tirade AGAINST ‘Thou Shalt Not Use Adverbs!’

  1. I must use adverbs! Schoolhouse Rock taught me about them and I love them.😆

    Liked by 1 person

Don't hold back -- tell me what you really think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.