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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Exorcise Adverbs


The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
Stephen King

Click-baiters adore adverbs:
  • Powerfully Effective Content Marketing
  • The Writing Resolution You Can Actually Keep
  • The Amazingly Simple Anatomy of a Meaningful Marketing Story
  • 8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content
  • How to Immediately Become a More Productive (and Better) Writer
  • What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively Must Know If Your Content Will Rock
But adverbs overpromise and add little; in fact, they weaken the words they modify.

Dressing up a word with an adverb is like "putting a hat on a horse," claims The Elements of Style.


Don't do it.


Don't overdress your words.


Understatement's the best way to put forth an idea, as the late copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis insisted.

Good writers get this.

Adverbs rarely appear on pages crafted by Kurt Vonnegut, Elmore Leonard or Stephen King.

But look at a passage by an over-writer like William Peter Blatty (taken from his novel The Exorcist):

The Jesuit moved slowly forward, oblivious of Chris, who was gaping in wonder; of Karl, stepping lithe and incredulous from the study; of Karras, emerging bewildered from the kitchen while the nightmarish poundings and croakings continued. He went calmly up the staircase, slender hand like alabaster sliding upward on the banister.

Karras came up beside Chris, and together they watched from below as Merrin entered Regan's bedroom and closed the door behind him. For a time there was silence. Then abruptly the demon laughed hideously and Merrin came out. He closed the door and started down the hall. Behind him, the bedroom door opened again and Sharon poked her head out, staring after him, an odd expression on her face.

Here the same passage again, with the adverbs exorcised:

The Jesuit moved forward, oblivious of Chris, who was gaping in wonder; of Karl, stepping lithe and incredulous from the study; of Karras, emerging bewildered from the kitchen while the nightmarish poundings and croakings continued. He went up the staircase, slender hand like alabaster sliding upward on the banister.

Karras came up beside Chris, and together they watched from below as Merrin entered Regan's bedroom and closed the door behind him. For a time there was silence. Then the demon laughed and Merrin came out. He closed the door and started down the hall. Behind him, the bedroom door opened again and Sharon poked her head out, staring after him, an odd expression on her face.

More chilling, no?

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