Adverbs are like sports commentators whose job it is to help the audience understand and appreciate the game. However, sometimes they either state the obvious or make readers interpreters of the game rather than participants.
- Strengthen Verbs by Making Them Stand Alone
Since the verb is the focus of the action, a modifier can distract rather than give support.
- Herb gently patted her on the shoulder.
- Peter smiled slightly.
- He painstakingly worked his way through the crowd.
- Cut the Adverb by Including Its Concept in the Verb
Actions are always stronger when they can be expressed in fewer words.
- The boys talked quietly whispered among themselves.
- In a stupor, Tim walked erratically stumbled toward the bar.
- Steven thought intensely about contemplated the situation.
- Eliminate Most Qualifiers
A weak adjective isn’t isn’t improved with an adverb. Two times weak spells doubly weak. It doesn’t work.
- The weather was simply too hot for outside activities.
- John is absolutely my best friend.
- I was literally exhausted. (As opposed to imaginary exhaustion?)
- Suddenly I felt like a hundred pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. (Can one feel a weight lift any other way?)
- Finally I gave up. (If it was the last resort, finally is obvious.)
- Avoid Adverbs in Attributions
The information desired from the adverb should be obvious in the dialogue. If it’s obvious, then the adverb is redundant and should be deleted. If it isn’t obvious, don’t use an adverb. Strengthen the dialogue with better words or use actions and body language to support the dialogue.
- “Don’t even think about it,” Sam shouted angrily.
- “I get to go to camp,” Susie said gleefully. “I get to go to camp.” Susie beamed as she twirled in a short dance.
- “I don’t think we can make it,” Dylan said doubtfully.
- “You don’t know what you’re doing,” Mom said judgmentally.
- “The world will end tomorrow,” the bum said cataclysmically.