The Path to Hell is Paved With…Adverbs
November 2, 2022
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
So wrote Stephen King in his book, On Writing, further exclaiming he’d shout it from the rooftops.
Adverbs aren’t officially a part of our Copy Optimizer Readability or Story Scores but they are a weak part of speech, leading to lifeless, dull writing. The show don’t tell adage is as known as it is ignored. But, adverb killing can help bridge the gap. Consider,
I ran quickly to catch the door before it closed.
Extra words have us telling, not showing. A simple fix from the anti-adverb police, I sprinted to catch the door before it closed, and voilà, fewer words, more action, more detail, more easy, mental visualization by the reader.
Another example, Bob walked out of the room sadly. Or, Bob sulked out of the room, tears welling.
And another, Sue quietly whispered her secret. Or, Sue whispered her secret. So many times the adverb means the same thing as the verb, adding nothing.
Be on the lookout for “ly” words and delete them. See how the sentence reads without and consider swapping a stronger verb to better convey the scene.
When to include them? Sparingly. But, sometimes an adverb can add a different meaning.
Her speech was brutally long. The adverb adds some interest to the adjective and conveys a more complex sentiment.
But, if in doubt, cut it lest that path to Hell get one more paving stone.