Writing…Just As It Should Be

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. Mark Twain

Twain’s not so subtle advice on not overusing adverbs in your writing is not new advice but as always Twain is cleverly reminding writers that adverbs should be used with caution.
That’s not to say that contemporary writers don’t overuse adverbs. This 2007 article “Deathly adverbs” offers author J.K. Rowling as an example.

And here’s Grammar Rock for a reminder what is an adverb?

Whether or not you think using adverbs is “lazy writing” as many editors and craft books will tell you, it’s a good idea to run your Word “find” feature for “ly” before you send in a completed piece of writing. Not that all adverbs should be banished but have you considered a stronger verb or if you are using excessive adverbs in dialogue tags, could you show that the person was angry rather than saying “Go away!” she said angrily.

Today take a look at how you use or overuse adverbs. How could you strengthen your writing by recognizing what words you overuse or fall back on? Twain continues his discussion of adverbs in this quote from Mark My Words: Mark Twain on Writing

I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. … There are subtleties which I cannot master at all,–the confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me,–and this adverb plague is one of them. … Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won’t.

Mark Twain “Reply to a Boston Girl,” Atlantic Monthly, June 1880

Now get back to work!


The Writing Nag

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