Monday, November 7, 2011

Adverbs & Hearty Hand Slaps

I didn't mean to...

Woke up this morning, let the dogs out, got my shower. Tried to feed the dogs, but one can't eat because she's getting spayed today. So, naturally, the others won't eat, either. All for one, one for all, I guess. Sigh. Made coffee, sat at the laptop to check my email, and voila. A nice, sturdy, verbal hand-slap from a NYT Bestseller in one of my Yahoo! craft groups.

Wow, I thought. Certainly didn't mean to step on toes with what I said. Basically, I professed my dislike for when people say, "Nora can get away with it because she's Nora."  Meaning Nora Roberts, the bestselling romance novelist, for those of you who do not read this genre, can head-hop, overuse adverbs (not that she does; I'm just sayin'), and all sorts of other writerly crimes we little people cannot, cannot commit, else risk being turned down at every bend.

Needless to say, an entire can of worms apparently got opened, thanks to me.  Yes, yes. You're most welcome. Though I wanted to somehow find a way to verbally speak through the screen, into the group, "You're taking it the wrong way!!" ... I politely responded, "Didn't mean to step on any toes. My apologies." and left it at that. More than likely I'll not be adding my 2 shillings to anything for, oh, another decade or so.

Not to mention I still kinda feel like this...

Anyways. The original subject matter that kicked way too far into overdrive (big time) is what I wanted to bring up to you today: Adverbs. The author of the post mentioned that she recently got her hand slapped (whole lotta hand slappin' goin' on, yeah?) by an editor for alleged overuse of adverbs. She had, like, three on a page or some such.

But here's her argument: Sometimes you need adverbs to add to the overall flow of the manuscript. When using an adverb, we've all been told, I am certain, there's always a stronger verb. You've just gotta find it. Plus, too many can make your work seem amateur and altogether icky. And that's true. But I do tend to agree with this particular author in that 1) YOU are the writer; this is your story; if you want the adverb, add the adverb and 2) Adverbs can actually provide color and/or add to the flavor of the scene.

Preferably with words, though, not makeup

So, what is an adverb? Other than being your basic -ly words, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us this definition:
: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content
Examples of this can show up in dialogue. "If you say so," he said blandly. (Suddenly You, Lisa Kleypas, 2001)

Or in regular sentences which compose exposition: Bravely she caught at the open edges of his shirt and urged his head down to hers. (also Suddenly You, Lisa Kleypas, 2001)

How about modifying an adjective, which, in turn, modifies a noun? She picked up a particularly frayed piece of linen and set it to the side.

We could seriously go on forever. What I'd like to know is how YOU feel about the use of adverbs? I'll bet you use them, but how often? Are there any specifically fabulous words you tend to use over and over and, therefore, have to slap your hand for doing so?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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2 comments

Andrew Leon said...

I don't have a problem with adverbs in general. I think the real issue is that people don't know how to use them properly. Here's where adverbs don't work:

1. to modify dialogue tags -- This is often a lazy way to communicate something that the author doesn't know how to communicate (how does one actually speak "blandly"?).

2. "really" and "very" -- The first adverbs for kids and, too frequently, the last ones, also.

I'm not into all the adverb hating going on. Just learn how to use them effectively, and there's no problem.
Not to mention that readers, mostly, just don't care.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I like adverbs. I agree they need to be used with caution, but they are not the devil.

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