Good vs. bad adverbs

I’ve talked before about how writers should use adverbs sparingly. But I haven’t talked about good vs. bad adverbs.

Bad adverbs are like smiled happily. Or fiercely killed him. Or softly whispered. Readers can already tell she’s happy because she’s smiling. Killing someone is already fierce, and whispering is already soft. These adverbs don’t add much to the story but rather explain what’s going on twice.

Usually, the best way to fix a bad adverb is to upgrade the verb. I murdered him instead of I fiercely killed him. Or I quickly ran becomes I dashed or I sprinted.

I also recommend taking the adverbs out before you read through your work. Sometimes adverbs seem like they’re needed when we’re writing, and we don’t realize how much we don’t need them until they’re gone. Take out the adverbs, wait a few days so you don’t remember where they were, and read over your work. Most likely, you won’t remember where they were, and you’ll have a smoother read.

Good adverbs, on the other hand, are like smiled sadly, gently shoved, or loudly whispered. They contradict each other in a way that gives the words a new meaning. They add something to the story and let the reader see more complex emotions.

Hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

This was originally posted on my writing blog.

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