But Concisely IS an Adverb.

You know what I just thought of, while editing my Snow-White and Red-Rose retelling? Writing advice is always a little strange, quite a bit of give-and-take, since everyone has different styles and a lot of people effectively break the rules and create wonderful stuff. I’ve always taken the “Writing Rules” as general guidelines, but I realized that some of them are actually a little contradictory, thus proving that they’re definitely not to be considered set in stone.

The rule that particularly caught me as I worked was the one about adverbs. I understand the basis for the rule: relying to heavily on adverbs (and adjectives for that matter) leads to lazy, lazy writing and doesn’t allow for a rich prose or a hard-hitting description that get you right in the gut. Sometimes, though, a good sturdy adverb is what best conveys the message, so I’m sure most people will agree that adverbs are best when used sparingly. Right?

Yet there’s another “rule” that suggests the best writing is writing that says the most in the fewest words. Clear and concise, no rambling on about useless words, every word has a purpose. Wouldn’t it seem that the easiest way to say something in “as few words as possible” be using adverts and adjectives? I’m sure there are nuances to this guideline, that I’m simplifying it a great deal, but it does make you wonder. On the one hand, we’re supposed to “show, don’t tell,” nixing adverbs for a more complete experience, yet, at the same time, we need to be say things in the most direct way possible. Which just may include using adverbs.

So which is it? What is your take on these writing guidelines? For me, I think it really depends on personal style and the story you’re trying to tell. I’m a huge fan of gothic 19th century works, where rambling on and infusing the page with flowery purple prose is part of the appeal and the reason I love them. I’m also astounded and giddy about writers like David Sedaris (he pops to mind first because I’m currently reading


  1. I love adverbs. They convey the exact message and feeling you’re trying to get across without having to dance all around it. However, I do think you can overdo them. I try to use a mix, which I think breaks up the monotony of things. Someone told me the other day that Stephen King made a remark that if he had to do it all over again, he would use fewer adverbs. Then everyone suddenly decided adverbs were evil. Most writers I talk to like adverbs. But “common” convention makes them afraid to use them. Well, I’m pretty much not afraid to do anything in my writing that I WANT to do. I do try to follow rules the best I can, but sometimes I wonder who MAKES these rules. Someone just suddenly decided adverbs were bad? I think you should use most words sparingly, so that’s not limited to adverbs. Use common sense and judgment, and the story will be good.

    • As an English major, that’s basically what it is, yes. Someone, at some point, put it down that something was bad in grammar, and therefor, boom. It’s written in stone. I used to be a tight-ass on so many grammar things, but then I realized how language is and should be mercurial, and the rules were generally thought up by other English majors with nothing else to do.

      So, yes. Let’s just whittle it down to: Use your adverbs, but use them wisely, my friends.

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