Adverbially Speaking

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham

You could say the same about writing a play or a poem — and about using adverbs in your writing. Ah, the adverb! Why among all the parts of speech is it so maligned? Why have writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Stephen King urged us to take an ax to the adverbs sprinkled across our pages? I don’t have the answer to this mystery and I’ve chosen to reject this pseudo-rule and defiantly pen prose that’s adverbially intensive. Sometimes it’s been a lonely road.

Fortunately, I’ve found an zealous advocate for the adverb: Barbara Baig has been teaching writing for more than 30 years and is the author of several handbooks, including the newly published Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers.

Here are a few of Barbara’s pearls of wisdom about adverbial abundance:

An adverb is far more than just a word ending in -ly: Along with nouns, verbs, and adjectives, it is one of the four content parts of speech used to construct sentences.

Each part performs a key function: Nouns name things, verbs specify action, and adverbs and adjectives add to, limit, or clarify nouns and verbs.

Adverbs are a valuable tool in every writer’s kit-bag and excising them from your writing will impoverish it. Adverbs play several important roles in a sentence — they make more specific and add information to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

Adverbs are versatile: The role an adverb plays in a sentence can show up in our writing as one word: sadly. Or as a phrase: “I’ll call you in the morning.” Or as a dependent clause: “We’ll eat whenever he gets here.”

Barbara notes, “To advise young writers to get rid of all their adverbs is like advising a pitcher with four great pitches to throw only three of them —it’s professional suicide.”

Bravo! Let’s dump the “dump adverbs” idea and focus instead on using them with proficiency and precision. For more of Barbara Baig’s craft advice, visit: Write on!


About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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3 Responses to Adverbially Speaking

  1. GiorgioConiglio says:

    Sent from Gil’s Toronto cell: 647-233-7883


  2. Carl Selinger says:

    “The only good adverb is a deleted adverb.” Carl Selinger

    “The only good adverb is a good adverb.” Carl Selinger

    I have spoken, judiciously.


    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Hi Carl,

    “The only good adverb is a good adverb” — now that’s an inspired
    and practical mantra we can all use — love it!

    Write on,

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