Why are ADVERBS so bad?

As Ive been revising my WIP, I have been really focusing on making my work “tighter.” A lot of the feedback I got was in regards to those forbidden words… ADVERBS!
As I was re-reading my manuscript, I thought, “but why are they so bad?”
Here is what I found out:
1.       Most of the time, adverbs are redundant and unnecessary.
§  "totally flabbergasted." The beauty of "flabbergasted" is that it implies an astonishment that is total; I can't picture someone being partly flabbergasted.
§  “Fumed angrily.” Can you imagine “fuming” to mean anything other than being angry?
§  “Whispered quietly.”  Can you actually whisper loud?
2.      Often writers want to explain dialogue by adding adverbs, but your dialogue should hold its own, and shouldn’t need the adverb.
§  "You broke my toy," he said accusingly. The dialogue records an accusation.
§  “You are so sweet.” She said affectionately. In giving someone a compliment, you might assume the speaker has some affection for the person they are complimenting.
3.      Many times writers try to make a verb better or stronger by adding the adverb. The problem here, is that you just have a weak verb.
§  replace "running quickly" with sprinting; "petting softly" with caressing; "moving slowly" with creeping
§  replace “vehemently walked” with stomped. "frowning angrily" with scowling
4.      And most important- SHOW the reader what is going on, don’t tell them.
§  Replace: “Kelly answered hoarsely, coughing from the powder the airbag had released.” With -  “Kelly’s throat stung and scratched, and she coughed, unable to get the nasty, metallic-tasting powder from the airbag out of her windpipe.”
§  Replace: “Tommy was extremely hungry.” With – “Tommy’s stomach growled; he couldn’t remember the last time he ate.”
Does this mean you can never use an adverb? No, one in every 400 words would be acceptable, but you should still try to stay away from them.
One GREAT suggestion: upon completion of a first draft, one should use the "Edit - Find" feature of your word processors. Then type in "ly," hit "find," and rewrite any sentence that contains an "ly" ending word in it.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King
“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” ~ Mark Twain

Some good books to check out:
On Writing Well, 5th Edition - William Zinsser
Self Editing For Fiction Writers - Renni Browne and Dave King
Useful Manuscript Preparation - Dr. Myron, Shippensburg University

Some sites I read: Site One, Two and Three


  1. I think that a lot of people who write have had problems with adverbs...and by a lot of those people, I mean me. You know, by virtue of being a legion of digital personas.

    Joking (?) aside, I think that I've gotten better about adverb usage -- certainly better than I used to be -- but I can't help but be paranoid again now that you've brought it up.

    To Microsoft Word!

    1. I noticed your use of "certainly" in the above comment! J'accuse!

    2. Oh my!
      So true!
      Its funny how common we use these words!

  2. This is good advice. I've been working on my adverb usage myself (especially point #3 up there). =]

  3. AWESOME Thank you so much!
    This is my first "tag" or blog award!


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