BlogGrammar RulesWhat’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

What’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

The ProWritingAid Team
ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Published Mar 04, 2016

Ly after an adverb

She said loudly and fiercely, “Put the book down.”

She drew in a deep breath. The force of her exhalation resounded around the room. “Put the book down,” she said.

Which one of the above scenes draws you in better? When you paint a picture with your character’s actions instead of using an “ly” adverb to try to set the mood, you give your reader a much deeper understanding and pull him or her closer into the drama.

It all comes down to “He said, She said” eventually. Professional editors and authors agree that you want your dialogue tags to be invisible to the reader so that it doesn’t slow him or her down or bring notice to the writing itself.

An “ly” adverb is a speech tag or dialogue tag that can grab your reader’s attention, while the simple “said” or “asked” is quickly glanced over without any thought. Keeping it simple lets your reader focus on what’s happening with your character than what the writer is trying to say.

Some might even say too many “ly” adverbs are unprofessional. And on the other hand, some experienced, celebrated authors think it’s ok to throw in an adverb tag once in a while.

“No, it’s not,” he replied sternly.

If you’re an experienced author, you probably know how and when to use the “ly” tag with a careful hand, but if you’re still working on your craft, it’s better to stick to “He said, She said.”

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The ProWritingAid Team
ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

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