All Those Adverbs Make You Look Like an Idiot

July 03, 2017

When you were a young lady or fellow in school, you learned all about adverbs. We all learned about them, and were even encouraged to use them in our writing. Now, I am no grammatical expert; my writing is usually for communication first and then I worry about being grammatically correct.

However, it has come to my attention that the overuse of adverbs in your writing is not only wrong, but will make you look like an idiot. Ok, maybe idiot is strong…it will weaken the writing. Even literary heavyweights like Stephen King and Mark Twain have a hate on for adverbs:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” – Stephen King

“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” – Mark Twain

With this kind of admonishment, it’s worth a closer look to see what all the fuss is about.

What Is an Adverb?

If you can’t recall your school days and don’t have a degree in English – I’m 2 for 2 on those – then it’s best to start at the beginning. An adverb refers to a word that modifies or describes a verb, another adverb or an adjective. They are often added to intensify the meaning of the word they are modifying.“He quickly realized that he knew nothing about adverbs.”

“She happily found another profession once the truth about adverbs was revealed.”

In these sentences, quickly and happily are the adverbs, intensifying realized and found.

It’s also common to see adverbs modifying other adverbs. This often happens when the word “very” is used:

“She very quickly left the party to go somewhere else.”

There are other types of adverbs (phrases for example) but for our purposes, the meaning mentioned above will do.

How Do I Spot One?

Now that you know what they are, how are you supposed to find them? In the examples above, you see that each one ends in ‘ly’. This is one of the easiest ways to identify adverbs in content writing. Words like quickly, beautifully, happily, flirtatiously, truthfully, delicately, lightly, expertly, cheerfully and randomly are all adverbs.

Words that deal with frequency can also be adverbs. We saw ‘very’ used above, and some other examples are more, much and many.

What’s the Big F*#king Deal?

By now, some of this stuff may have come back to you, and you are likely wondering why it’s a big deal? Here is how using too many adverbs in your content writing will make it weaker.

Ditching the adverb will show your readers what is happening and using the adverb will tell them what is happening, and showing is always more powerful. Here are a couple examples: 

“The boy quickly ran home after school.”

“The boy sprinted home after school.”

It’s easy to see that the word sprinted is much more descriptive and paints a clearer picture in the reader’s mind. It also appears less cluttered, which is always a good thing. Here’s another:

“The police siren whined loudly as the car sped down the street.”

In this sentence, the adverb ‘loudly’ adds redundancy to the sentence, because there is no other way for a police siren to whine, except loudly. It is just kind of hanging out and taking up space. 

Using Adverbs Wisely

All this negative adverb talk may have you taking a second or third look at your content and trying to remove any offenders, but they aren’t all bad. Sometimes, the adverb will enhance the sentence, or bring a clear meaning into view.

“The robber entered the store silently.”
“The government recently amended the healthcare bill.”

In these cases, the adverb isn’t just wasting space, it is doing something useful.
Here are a few more tips:

  • Don’t use adverbs that state the obvious (everyone bellows loudly)
  • Try not to be lazy…take the time to find a better word
  • Don’t add adverbs just to make a sentence longer
  • If your verb sucks, find a new one instead of trying to spruce it up with an adverb
  • Stay away from really and very (Yes, I’m sure I’ve used them lots of times)
  • Try to use them only when the meaning of the sentence suffers without it
  • Don’t use adverbs that are redundant
I’m sure there is a lot more that can be added to this post to tell the whole story of the lowly adverb, but like I said earlier, I’m not a grammar expert. If you follow the guidelines laid out here, you should be well on your way to looking less like an idiot in your content writing.

If you need some help in other areas, we can help. Give The Content Company a call today at 888-221-5041 and we will get the process started.

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