Markham Correct

Adverbitis

NoAdverbs First of all, I should apologise for not having blogged in quite some time. My ‘To Edit’ pile has been towering.

As I finally seem to have a few minutes free on this rainy bank holiday afternoon, I thought it might be a good time to point out one of the most common problems I encounter when editing for new writers: adverbitis.

The road to hell is paved with adverbs” – Stephen King.

Overuse of adverbs is often an issue for writers new and old alike. It’s very easy to spot an overabundance of them when you’re editing an MS, but all too easy to be unaware when you’re writing. I don’t have any kind of ‘magic bullet’ for them, but the best advice I can give is try to be hyper aware of them. Be on the lookout for the little blighters when you read through your first draft, and take out as many of them as you can.

There are three main ways you can ditch them when you find them:

Firstly, check to see if your verb is strong enough. If you find yourself using, for example, “he walked quickly”, see if you can change it to, “he strode”. If you’ve gone for “he walked slowly”, try ‘ambled’ or ‘dawdled’ in place of ‘walk’. This is a handy way around some of them, but of course, it won’t always work.

Secondly, check to see if you’re ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. This is a massively common criticism that finds its way into many a rejection letter, so it’s always good to look out for even the smallest instance of it, and crush it early in your draft. If you find yourself writing something along the lines of “she ran away from him fearfully”, try to think of other ways that you can show her fear. For example, “she ran away from him, her legs shaking as she shot quick glances over her shoulder, etc.” Using just one word, ‘fearfully’, will often be seen as lazy by your reader, and it does very little to engage their interest.

And thirdly, check to see if your adverb is redundant. If you have a line such as, “he slammed the window angrily”, the anger here is implicit in the slamming, and doesn’t require a second reference. These are the easiest ones to spot, and the quickest ones to nuke :)

Abverbitis is common, so if you’re a sufferer, you are not alone! Once you’re aware you have the condition though, you’re already over halfway down the road to a cure.