Adverbs: Why We Don’t Like Them

What is an adverb? Why do we not like them?

Adverb (noun): a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there)

There you have it. The definition of an adverb. Okay, now that we have the definition, let’s take a look at what it means. An adverb modifies. That means the verb, adjective, etc isn’t strong enough or correct, and therefore needs to be modified.


I pressed him forcibly away. Suddenly he spoke shrilly, “You’ll pay!” Moving quickly, he pulled back his hand and hit me in the face. It hurt painfully.

I shoved him. He shrieked, “You’ll pay!” He punched me; my face throbbed with the beat of my heart.

You’ll notice the second passage is shorter. In writing is is often best to shorten passages. With less words, I’ve said the same thing. The verbs in the second passage are stronger than in the first, and give the meaning that took me more words in the first. “Pressed him forcibly” is what shoving is. “Suddenly” clogs up the sentence, without it, the action happens quicker. “Speaking shrilly” is best said as shrieked, giving a similar feeling. “Moving quickly” again belies the motion and speed. “Pulling back his hand and hit” is the similar as punch (slap would be alright). “Painfully” doesn’t tell you anything, other than the obvious: that it hurt. Throbbed is better as it gives the achy feeling we might want.

Okay. So that covers the use of verbs that adverbs take care of, and most often as writers what you will encounter in your onslaught against the dreaded adverb.


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