The Joy of Adverbs

Awhile back I wrote a post called The Rule of Threes.

In re-pondering this again recently, the thought occurs that I'm not generally much of a rule follower.  In fact, you might even accurately describe me as a person who is incapable of following rules.  I break them like crazy in real life (which is why I have to free-lance; most jobs require employees who follow rules) and I break them in writing.

Here's just one example:  I use adverbs. 

There, I've said it.

I can hear your shocked gasps and the urgent whispering amongst you.  But it has to be said.  I use adverbs.  I use adverbs joyously, lushly, over-the-toply.  I like adverbs.  And I really don't want anyone telling me that I shouldn't use them.

Truthfully, mostly I edit them out after sprinkling my prose with them liberally (except in this post).  Why?  Because I want to follow the rules?  No, I edit them out because in re-reading my work I can see it will be stronger without them.  I'm doing it because I want to and not because someone told me to.

So when I leave adverbs in its for a reason.  Case in point: the lead character in my novel is an over-the-top sort of person who dramatizes and exaggerates everything.  For her, using adverbs in speech and thought pattern is as natural as a bird singing.  So she spouts adverbs prolifically.

The point here is that I know the rule against using adverbs (don't ask me to explain it, though) and I've internalized it so that I now can break the rule.  I am in a place where I can break rules with abandon.

Which is exactly where I like to be.

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Roy Burkhead

shocked gasps and the urgent whispering, indeed!

Actuall(y), :-), you’ve nailed it, of course–and you don’t need me to tell you. As you’ve pointed out, there’s what the writer does and what the character does. Characters use adverbs because real people use adverbs.

And while I’ve been an anti-adverbian all my creative writing life, the right adverb in the right place at the right time is fine. More than fine. Can be wonderful, in fact! F. Scott Fitzgerald is a great example of this.

Nice post. 🙂 Welcome back.

Charlotte Dixon


I thought about you the entire time I wrote this post, hoping you wouldn’t be shocked beyond the ability to speak to me! Thanks for posting a level-headed comment. And, its good to be back!



Hi Charlotte:

Even from day one, I’ve never had a problem with adverbs. I think it’s impossible to write without using adverbs here or there. The trick is to know when to use one, which one to use, and how often to use it…given the context of the situation(s).

Sorry for the radio silence. Had to to to the ER: shellfish attack. Nearly did me in. I’m getting better, but it was a bit…nerve racking. I’ll be in touch soon.