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885250_84796185 (WinCE) I hate adverbs.  They’re redundant garbage. I want to purge every adverb from the page in an ink fuelled genocide. A whole class of words put to death.

My anti-adverb sentiments are causing problems. A ridiculous problem in the scheme of things, but one that I can’t help focusing on because of its stupidity.

For those who don’t pay grammar any attention,  adverbs are words that modify any part of language other than a noun to show how something was done (i.e. how, what extent, when or where). Typically adverbs end in ‘ly’: ‘slowly’ or ‘beautifully’ are adverbs (the ‘ly’ rule is just a rule of thumb though so daily or lovely aren’t adverbs).

Adverbs exist for a reason. Trying to delete them without mercy leaves behind many mangled sentences. ‘He peeked around the corner’ tells a different story from ‘he peeked nervously around the corner’. Without using adverbs, I knowingly fail to convey the character of actions.

I’m forced to leave some on the page despite my demands for their death. Every time I do this, I spend hours trying to edit them away. I will cycle through whatever word combinations, word orders or expressions will let me ditch them from the sentence. Sometimes this leads to tortured writing where the simple sentence uses the adverb.

A more subtle difficulty is that the absence of adverbs create a hostile tone. Somehow adverbs function as cushions in sentences by reducing the sharper edges of words and humanising narratives.  Characters, actions and words are given a soft halo of personality that lets language flow by describing the quality of their actions.  In contrast, the absence of adverbs creates cold prose.

I fear that ‘Adverb free’ writing partly reflects ‘adverb free’ thinking. Thinking that sees the world as portrayed in the chosen words: a world without motive or intent. A world without the natural hesitation of a human being: where every stride is bold and every smile sincere. What irks me is that I don’t even think the world is like that. But when I want to put those thoughts into writing, my brain rebels and demands simplified lies.

I’m obsessed with a  trivial component of the language and I don’t know why. Time to shake this strange hang-up.

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