Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rethinking the -ly words

So if you go to a writers' conference these days you'll probably be told that ADVERBS ARE EVIL. Like, they're the Voldemorts of the Parts of Speech. Go through your manuscripts, your teachers will tell you, and ZAP THOSE EVIL ADVERBS INTO OBLIVION WITH YOUR HARRY POTTER WANDS.

And that's not such bad advice. Really, you should find a kickass verb to do the work for you and then you won't need an adverb. EXCEPT! Lately, I've been noticing how British writers still use adverbs. Quite a lot, actually. They just slather them on the way we used to slather on the baby oil when we went sunbathing back in the day before skin cancer was invented. And, people, the evil adverbs kinda work when people with cool English accents use them.

Here's another time when the adverb worked for me. Lisa B. sent me a link to a blog where the author remembers how her mother wouldn't let her eat some cake, so she went outside in a fit of pique to play with her toys "vengefully." Could there BE a better description? "Vengefully" carries the day.

Which means I have to re-think the whole adverb thing, I guess. So that's what I'm doing right now. Thinking. Thoughtfully.

5 comments:

Becca said...

Yes - exactly. I just gave a class about that very thing. In fact, it was about using comedy in your writing, and we decided that adverbs are funny. And completely proper if spoken with a British accent. Totally thoughtfully rethinking, too.

Donna said...

before skin cancer was invented? perfectly said...

LucindaF said...

Me thinks adverbs have taken on the role of scapegoat for all the rules which aren't rules if you write well and which are rules that get you rejected but aren't rules for the guy who wrote the very same thing and ended up with a movie contract. Writers want to have something CONCRETE. A rule that is a real rule. And so we pound the desk with our fists and mark with our red pens. And say, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Dr. SWILUA said...

I don't really think adverbs are devil's spawn. Some of my writer friends do. But confession: if they circle them in my manuscripts, sometimes I just smile, nod, and leave them there.

Dr. SWILUA said...

(coincidentally? my writing PhD is British.)