Adverbs: Falsest of Friends

Joining a writing or editing group can be an incredible experience. If you surround yourself with the right group of people, you gain invaluable feedback and improve your pieces of writing in a way you just can’t accomplish your own. It’s a productive, fulfilling experience.

If you surround yourself with the right group of people.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a writing group full of people terrified of offering the slightest criticism who assume that if they suggest even minor edits to your writing, you’ll start bawling like the precious, little lilac you are and spend the rest of your life locked in your basement wearing a stained wife-beater, shoving pistachio ice cream in your cakehole, and watching Smurfs reruns while blubbering “Why, oh why, did she not approve of the way I use semicolons?!”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received from a writing group is this: adverbs are not your friends.

For those who don’t remember third grade English (or School House Rock), adverbs are words that can be used to describe other parts of speech. They’re not like adjectives, which can only be used to describe nouns (words like large, stinky, boisterous, and sticky.) Adverbs can be used to describe adjectives and verbs as well (words like slowly, very, deftly, or suddenly are adverbs.)

If you write adventure fiction, you’ll find yourself describing a lot of vibrant combat scenes and daring escapes. While writing such a scene, the temptation to use adverbs eats away at your undercarriage like a starving, hyperactive poodle.

I find myself using phrases like “he ducked under the table quickly” or “deftly, he drew his pistol.” The problem is that all those adverbs make the scene move pretty slowly. Which is not what you want in an action scene.

The adverbs also keep me from using more creative language. Instead of “he ducked under the table quickly,” I can say “he darted under the table.” Instead of “deftly, he drew his pistol,” I can say “he whipped out his pistol.”

Adverbs are the disgusting, garbage-scented cretins of the grammar world.  They should be shunned, shot, dragged through the streets, and hung up in town square as an example to other figures of speech.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and cry into a pillow. Agnes from my new writing group suggested I stop using serial commas.

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