"Ly adverbs are bad! Off with their heads!" The self-appointed writing style police bellow. (I could have said yell loudly and watched the critters scream and have fits.)

"Wait," I cry. "Not all words ending in ly are adverbs. " (Have you even had anyone go through your writing and cross out all ly words?)

The glower of the" words we can use" rule makers makes me shiver.

"Lonely is an adjective. Lovely and shapely are adjectives. Adjectives are good, aren't they?" I ask.

"NO!" the style police insist. We must kill ly adverbs. Since some people can't tell their adverbs from their adjectives, we'll kill them all! (the words, not the people)(Hmmm, )

Wait just a minute. We have adverbs and adjectives for a reason. I do feel overuse of anything can weaken writing, as too much salt or garlic can ruin a great sauce.

So, if you realize you have used too many ly adverbs, you might want to replace some of them.

Look below for ways I'd suggest.

He ran angrily from the room .

maybe

He stormed from the room.

Don't use an adverb when the meaning is clear without it.

He yelled resentfully. If the resentment is clear, you don't need the adverb.

See if some of the adverbs should be adjectives.

Resentful, he yelled.
Angry, he ran from the room.

He spoke quietly.
could be
He whispered.


Suddenly could be omitted or become in an instant.

Shaking, she waited for Buck to pass her hiding place.

So, when you are polishing or editing your writing, consider this.
If you have a lot of ly adverbs, you probably don't need them all.
Not all verbs need an adverb.
Vary sentence structure, but be careful to make sure your modifiers modify something in the sentence.

If you didn't read the Friday's post, do it now and comment, please.

14 comments

  1. Judy // May 1, 2010 at 8:39 AM  

    Excellent, Mary! Hmmm...are you a teacher or something? LOL

  2. Beth Trissel // May 1, 2010 at 10:20 AM  

    Excellent post and I agree with you. We should limit but not totally eliminate them. I like an occasional 'softly.'

  3. Mary Marvella // May 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM  

    Yu learned my secret. I taught grammar for 15 years and I tutor now.

  4. Mary Marvella // May 1, 2010 at 11:06 AM  

    Funny some "writers" decide other writers must eliminate entire categories of words.

    WHY? The right adjective or adverb can put in the perfect sensory detail.

    His work roughened fingertips traced a trail down her belly. She shivered with anticipation and need.

    No ly adverbs harmed in that example.

  5. Patrice // May 1, 2010 at 12:08 PM  

    Mary,
    That was a lovely blog, and I greatly appreciate the reminders. LOL. I'm bad with this stuff, I kind of write like I speak because I normally write in deep POV. And I intentionally used a lot of ly words in this comment!

  6. Mary Ricksen // May 1, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

    I am so sorry I missed this one. I thought I commented on the latest post. I'm here, albeit a bit late. Your posts are teaching me things. If I take one important thing from a post. I am doing well. This whole post is great insight!
    Thanks MM!

  7. Mary Marvella // May 1, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

    Hey, Patrice,

    Your comment was just fine.

    The editing process and doing several read-through-everything drafts allow us to make our writing sing!

    Get it on paper, first!

  8. Mary Marvella // May 1, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

    Glad you found this post informative. I LOV this stuff!

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel // May 1, 2010 at 10:39 PM  

    MM is the best at this stuff! She keeps me straight. Great job MM. It is wonderful to have someone who knows her stuff as a critique partner, now if I'd get something written for her to fix!

    MM is the greatest.

    Scarlet-- who has been reading Published Daphne entries, remodeling the house we bought in March and avoiding writing.

  10. Mary Marvella // May 2, 2010 at 12:53 AM  

    Thanks for the kind words, Scarlet. We both have writing to do, lady!

  11. Joanne // May 2, 2010 at 11:15 AM  

    Top authors use "ly" words all the time. I like them, as long as they are not overused.

  12. Janine // May 2, 2010 at 4:43 PM  

    Great post. I agree, judicious use of adverbs is fine. Overuse is...bleh :-)

    I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard to help me keep an eye on my adverbs. It lets me know when I've overdone it and keeps quiet when I've only got a few. Perfect :-)

  13. Mary Marvella // May 2, 2010 at 6:19 PM  

    I agree with you, Joanne! No herbs when you cook? Some herbs? Careful use of them? Hmmmm. Too much garlic can run spaghetti sauce. Just enough and YUM!

  14. Mary Marvella // May 2, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

    Jianne, sounds like the editing program helps you.

    I still say, get the words on paper, then make them better on the 2nd, 3rd, or 10th draft.