Adverbs are words that modify other words, like adjectives and verbs. Many adverbs end in "-ly." Adverbs are grammatically correct, but not all adverbs are created equal. Some adverbs add needed meaning to your text. Other adverbs are bad: they indicate weak writing and should be replaced with stronger adjectives or verbs.
Most writing software highlights all instances of “-ly” adverbs. But not all “-ly” adverbs are bad. In fact, some are necessary, like adverbs of time, which tell your reader when something happened. ProWritingAid just highlights the bad adverbs in your writing so you can replace them as necessary.
Bad adverbs modify weak verbs and adjectives. They say in many words what a strong adjective or verb can say in one word. For instance:
“Raced” is a stronger, more emotive verb than “ran.” It also says in one word what “ran quickly” says in two.
We recommend using fewer than 15 bad adverbs in your writing. You can fix bad adverbs by replacing them with stronger verbs, nouns, or adjectives.
Adverbs are a part of speech, just like any other. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using an adverb. They are grammatically correct. However, overusing adverbs is a sign of lazy writing.
Adverbs are often used in instances when a stronger verb would do a better job of conveying meaning:
“Dashed” is a stronger, more evocative verb. “Dashed” also says the same thing in one word that “walked swiftly” says in two. Since published writing is concerned with conciseness, stronger verbs are better for your work than adverbs and weak verbs.
The same goes for adjectives: a strong noun or single adjective is better than a string of adverb descriptors.
There are three main categories to watch out for:
In this example, “quietly” is a bad adverb because it’s redundant when used with “whispered.” Whispering is already quiet. No need to say so again.
Here are some more examples of redundant adverbs:
Not all adverbs are created equal. Neither are all verbs. For example:
You can replace “called loudly” with a stronger, more emotive verb:
Here are some more examples of weak verbs:
Certain adverbs don’t provide any value to your text. These include adverbs like extremely, definitely, truly, very, and really.
Think about it: what does “very” mean, anyway? Nothing solid! So if you’re tempted to use “very” (or another of these adverbs), it’s better to replace it with a stronger verb or adjective.
Some adverbs add needed clarity and meaning to your writing. Here are some examples of good adverbs:
Adverbs of time, for instance, give context to when something happened:
The adverb “early” helps the reader understand when the subjects of the sentence left.
Sometimes, adverbs can fix phrasing that feels strange or clunky. Consider:
The second option is clearer and easier to read.
Not all adverbs are bad. Not all adverbs are good. As the author, you have the power to decide whether or not to include adverbs in your writing.
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