Overkilling with Adverbs

Pay close attention,

Read on carefully,

Understand the nuances carefully,

Apply the knowledge deliberately.

But, please, oh please!

Do not overuse the adverb callously!

An adverb can be defined as a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or even a whole sentence. Adverbs are used to intensify, amplify or turn down meaning. For example, literally, simply, absolutely, rapidly, swiftly, sort of, kind of, fast, almost, better, etc.  What we need to learn is to use adverbs cautiously: their misuse and overuse makes our writing cluttered! 

1. The most common misuse of an adverb is to reiterate obvious information.

Harry Potter laughed happily as the majestic Hogwarts castle rose from behind the clouds. He was absolutely determined to learn magic as a wizard. His thoughts were rudely interrupted by Hermione, who whispered quietly in his ears.

If Harry laughed, did it not denote his happiness?

Did determination not imply absolute resolve?

To interrupt someone is to act rudely, right? And to whisper is to speak softly!

The use of happily, absolutely, rudely and quietly is redundant in the given sentences. Adverbs have their place, but often we can improve our writing by pruning unnecessary adverbs. 

2. The next thing to remember is that weak verb-adverb combinations should be revised with stronger verbs.

Ron ran swiftly towards the Whomping Willow’ can become ‘Ron sprinted towards the Whomping Willow.’ 

Shining in her ball gown, Hermione came down the stairs effortlessly  is better described as ‘Shining in her ball gown, Hermione glided downstairs.’  

3. Use adverbs to change a verb's, an adverb’s  or an adjective’s meaning to the reader. Some adverbs add stress: Instantly perceiving Dudley to be a bully, Hagrid decided to rescue Harry from his dismal living situation. Some adverbs paint a clearer picture: Hagrid was a reassuringly solid confidant. 

4. When it comes to adverbs, it’s all about balance. Here are some simple tricks to using/deleting an adverb:

• Remove an adverb if it does not change the meaning of a sentence. 

• If the verb or adjective works great without the adverb, remove it.

• Use the adverb if it adds valuable meaning to a verb, adjective, an adverb or the meaning of a sentence.

• Be wary of using very and really often: they are two of the most overused and misused adverbs.

American author Stephen King’s comparison of using adverbs to having dandelions in your lawn is  precise—one dandelion looks beautiful, but many are like weeds that can overtake the lawn. Using the right adverb is like embellishing your writing with a sparkling jewel, but too many and they can become annoying and distracting. 




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