Monday, July 05, 2010

On Adverbs, Briefly

I have developed an aversion to adverbs. I don't mean that adverbs are bad, but too many people use them to modify weak verbs instead of using strong, vivid ones.

To wit, the lazy man will write, "He ran quickly down the hall."

While there's nothing innately wrong with the adverb quickly--it has it's time and place--, it's being used here simply to modify a very plain verb: run. Why not scrap the plain verb in favor of a dynamic one?

"He sprinted down the hall."

Not only is sprinted a vivid verb that needs no modification, its usage conveys the same idea and image as ran quickly--and it does so in one less word.

Creating the same image and impact in fewer words is now among my goals, and it should be among yours. Never compromise clarity for brevity, but if you can say it as well simpler, then go simpler.

I have adopted--at least I am trying to adopt--this advice from Stephen King, who recommends it in On Writing. By King's suggestion, I picked up a copy of Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White. Strunk and White make the same case. I recommend both books to anyone who loves to write and who wants to write better.

1 comment:

  1. Brian N.10:44 PM

    A damn straight point, sir! One wonders whence they came?


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