Literary Engineer
Because reading and writing are my only obsessions

Sloppy Writing 101.31

Adverbs are the devil.

Okay, maybe not, but that’s the impression I get from reading how-to-write articles. So we’re supposed to avoid them. And I’m trying. I’ll leave them in dialogue sometimes, but will clean others out of the narrative—unless I think it’s important for voice.

So here’s another bad adverb: Actually

Here are my examples of unnecessary Actuallys in The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.

-Actually, Chloe was gonna come to my buddies’ house for dinner.

-I don’t mind. I think that would be nice, actually.

-Well actually, the place I was thinking of has ice cream too.

- Perhaps they’d kick me out of school. I don’t actually know

Actually… above I just said I leave them in dialogue sometimes. But this is all dialogue, and I took them out. I just don’t need them. They don’t do anything for the sentence.

I went back to an old version of TPWTSG and counted my Actuallys. I only dropped them from 19 to 11. So it’s not a huge problem, but if I’m doing it with all sorts of adverbs, than it is a problem.

Do you struggle with adverbs?

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6 Responses to “Sloppy Writing 101.31”

  1. Alice Says:

    I’ve read so much writing advice that condemns adverbs as something we should never use. I get where they’re coming from with words like actually, totally, quite etc., but are adverbs really evil as a whole? I never understood why.

  2. Jay Says:

    I have a love hate relationship with adverbs. While I think sometimes they can be useful if used VERY sparingly, they are some of the biggest sore thumbs to stick out in a MS. Something about that “-ly” that makes it easy to spot them if they start cropping up all over the place. Then again, they cannot be such a big evil if they still exist…Right??

  3. Jenny Morris Says:

    I used to think about adverbs a lot. But I had so many other things to think about I stopped. Haha. I’d hate to see how many I have in my current WIP.

  4. Caryn Caldwell Says:

    I do struggle with adverbs sometimes, but I figure they’re a problem I can deal with in revisions (when I can search for ‘ly’ then eradicate non-ly adverbs as I read through). That said, I think some are fine. They add to the voice, they make writing smoother, and they can add specifics to a verb that might not have a more specific object. So, yeah, I get rid of them when I can, but if I like one there, or if I feel it needs to be there, then there it stays.

  5. Ella Cvancara Says:

    No problem with adverbs–I avoid them most of the time! What I learned is: if you use strong verbs, you don’t need adverbs.

  6. Dana Says:

    I agree with Ella. I try to use strong verbs whenever possible.

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