Adverbs are used to modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and usually end in -ly. Many writers and publishers will tell you these adverbs are a sign of weak or timid writing.
Author Stephen King complains about them in his memoir, On Writing, saying, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs…” King goes on to say you should never even use them in dialogue attribution if you can avoid it. He means you should always use “said” without adding an emotional tag like “sadly”, ”menacingly” or “acidly”.
However, even in the great King’s books you can find adverbs. I, myself am guilty of using them (suddenly, quickly, angrily etc.). Most writers do at some point. The key is to replace any unnecessary ones. Ask yourself if the –ly word is the best way to write the sentence or if there is a more active verb you can use. If there is any way to say the same thing in fewer words, or if it’s not adding to the sentence, omit them.
When I write a rough draft I don’t worry about them. I just get my ideas on paper and these adverbs become place holders for a richer description upon rewrite. Here are some examples from my own WIP. I have drawn a line through the original adverbs and placed the new choice in bold.
walked lazily strolled toward the building.
frowned angrily scowled.
ran quickly from fled the hall.
went quickly hurried away.
“Throw that away.” She
said loudly shouted.
quietly walked crept down the hall.
firmly placed slammed the figurine down on the mantel.
She turned her head slowly.
Hmmm. I’m not sure I’ll change the last one. There is a reason for this action. Remember, there is nothing wrong with using adverbs, all writers do so, but use them wisely and only occasionally. Otherwise, they become distracting.Also, notice how the replaced words create a mental image. This is what publishers mean by “Show, Don’t Tell.” Monica Wood, Description, suggests you “circle your adverbs, especially the ones that end in "ly". Examine your adverbs to make sure you aren't forcing them to do the hard work of observation for you. Instead of telling us that the heroine works "tirelessly," tell us about the calluses on her hands or her heavy walk.”
Repetition is another danger of using adverbs. William Zinsser, in his book On Writing Well, says most adverbs are unnecessary. ”You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don't tell us that the radio blared loudly - "blare" connotes loudness. Don't write that someone clenched his teeth tightly - there's no other way to clench teeth.”Editing tip: When you have finished your final draft, edit using the "find" function for "ly" words. Next, read the sentence containing the adverb. Decide whether or not to correct it. Adverbs are all valid words, if used in moderation, but are prone to misuse, overuse and abuse.
Please feel free to share your own advice and examples.