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As writers we are told not to use adverbs, the part of speech that modifies verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.  These words usually end in “-ly”.  Most of us follow this advice and limit the use of adverbs, or if we do use them in drafts, we cut them out when we revise, and substitute better verbs.  Examples are: “walk slowly”, could be changed to remove the adverb “slowly” and replace it with “stroll”. “Walk fast” could be changed to remove the adverb “fast” and replace the verb with “run”.

Stephen King, in “On Writing” (Scribner 2000) explains:  “The adverb is not your friend.”  He gives an example:  “He closed the door firmly.”  Does “firmly” really have to be there?  King acknowledges that it might be clearer than saying: “He slammed the door.”  However he goes on to say:  “...but what about context?  What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly?’  Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door?  And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word?  Isn’t it redundant?”

King went on to say: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs...To put it another way, they’re like dandelions.  If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique.  If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day...fifty the day after that.. and then...your lawn is totally, completely and profligately covered with dandelions.”

King suggests that adverbs ruin your writing.  The next time you revise your writing and come across an adverb, remember the yellow lawn and root the dandelions out.
When you finish writing do a search for “ly” and see how many adverbs the search turns up.  How many of these adverb and verb combinations can be changed to more powerful verbs?

King also said: “Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp ... one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason.  Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”




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