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popmuze
07-18-2010, 06:25 PM
Okay, there's been a lot of hyperbole lately about the use of adverbs. Or rather the use of no adverbs. But let's get down to facts and figures (before I go out of my mind).

For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?

Danthia
07-18-2010, 06:30 PM
It's not that cut and dry. If you have 1000 well-used adverbs and flow seamlessly with the story, 1000 is fine. If you have 50 that are used poorly, 50 is too many.

You're much better off looking at each adverb and deciding if there's a better way to say the same thing without it, or if that adverb is the right word for that sentence. Get rid of every lazy adverb. Keep the ones pulling their weight.

popmuze
07-18-2010, 06:35 PM
What seems to be cropping up is the word "only." It looks like I'm stylistically addicted to it. So far (50 pages) I can't figure out a way to eliminate any of them. Not that I have five in three sentences or anything. But it's by far my favorite adverb.

Bufty
07-18-2010, 06:58 PM
Cut them all out and see if the sentence still conveys the intended meaning with clarity. If it doesn't, find a way to rephrase it so that it does.

Is there a stronger verb you could use?

It's nothing to do with facts and figures.

You could eliminate that 'fiercely' for a start.

Dave.C.Robinson
07-18-2010, 07:29 PM
I use adverbs as signposts. Whenever I see one I ask myself if the adverb means I'm using the wrong verb. Sometimes the adverb should be there, but more often than not it's a sign I need to do more polishing.

Jennasis
07-18-2010, 07:35 PM
The rules can suck it. If I want to use an adverb and feel it's the best word for that particular sentence, then by crackey that's what I'm using!

Bufty
07-18-2010, 07:56 PM
If someone's work is littered with adverbs used through habit and not design they are not doing themselves any favours.

I don't know to what rules you are referring.

The rules can suck it. If I want to use an adverb and feel it's the best word for that particular sentence, then by crackey that's what I'm using!

ChaosTitan
07-18-2010, 08:01 PM
It's not that cut and dry. If you have 1000 well-used adverbs and flow seamlessly with the story, 1000 is fine. If you have 50 that are used poorly, 50 is too many.

You're much better off looking at each adverb and deciding if there's a better way to say the same thing without it, or if that adverb is the right word for that sentence. Get rid of every lazy adverb. Keep the ones pulling their weight.

This.

NicoleMD
07-18-2010, 08:53 PM
It's not that cut and dry. If you have 1000 well-used adverbs and flow seamlessly with the story, 1000 is fine. If you have 50 that are used poorly, 50 is too many.


Too true! I guess the question is, do you want this project to have adverb usage that's sparse, generous, or somewhere in between? There's no right or wrong answer. It's just the execution that's important.

Nicole

Jamesaritchie
07-18-2010, 09:53 PM
What seems to be cropping up is the word "only." It looks like I'm stylistically addicted to it. So far (50 pages) I can't figure out a way to eliminate any of them. Not that I have five in three sentences or anything. But it's by far my favorite adverb.

I'd cut "only" as many times as possible. "Only" is a particularly weak adverb, and is almost never needed.

As an adjective, "only" usually is needed and stands up well, but as an adverb, it does nothing but sit there.

I don't know much about YA, but my rule is that many adverbs are just fine in MG, but darned few work at all well in adult.

Hallen
07-18-2010, 11:13 PM
I'd cut "only" as many times as possible. "Only" is a particularly weak adverb, and is almost never needed.

As an adjective, "only" usually is needed and stands up well, but as an adverb, it does nothing but sit there.

I don't know much about YA, but my rule is that many adverbs are just fine in MG, but darned few work at all well in adult.

And almost is almost never needed either. ;)

The 'rule' is a guideline, nothing more.

Jamesaritchie
07-18-2010, 11:53 PM
And almost is almost never needed either. ;)

The 'rule' is a guideline, nothing more.

Yes, it's a guideline, but guidelines are there for a reason, and not following them usually results in poor, often unpublishable, writing.

It's an odd, and all too common, attitude to think that because something is a guideline, rather than a hard and fast rule, you're free to ignore it completely.

And sometimes, just sometimes, "almost" is needed.

When a word isn't needed, don't use it. When a word makes writing weaker, and adverbs generally do weaken adult writing, using that word anyway, just because guidelines aren't rules, is something we're all allowed to do, but which does weaken writing.

Eddyz Aquila
07-19-2010, 12:39 AM
Yes, it's a guideline, but guidelines are there for a reason, and not following them usually results in poor, often unpublishable, writing.

But it can result in some fantastic nonconformist work which breaks the usual norm. :)

About adverbs, use as many as you feel like it. Make sure it sounds both in your mind and out loud good (or perfect!). If the writing is enjoyable, adverbs can provide a good addition and work well. But don't overdo it.

Swordswoman
07-19-2010, 01:37 AM
Okay, there's been a lot of hyperbole lately about the use of adverbs. Or rather the use of no adverbs. But let's get down to facts and figures (before I go out of my mind).

For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?

popmuze, there ARE no facts and figures. Truly.

If you need to be told there's a problem with 'he ran quickly' then yes, you need to check every single adverb you have to be sure it's got a purpose of its own that couldn't be replaced by the use of a strong verb.

If (like most on AW) you're a little more advanced than that, then all you need to do is check your adverbs with the same eagle-eye you check every other word you've used - is it the right word with the right rhythm meaning exactly the right thing, and if it isn't then WTF is it doing there?

That's all there is. There are no guidelines, and there are no rules. Occasionally a writer comes along like Stephen King who says 'adverbs are bad' even if he uses them himself, and the very desperate will interpret this as an absolute mantra. Those who naturally incline to the kind of purple prose that causes slushpiles to sprout broccoli will even need such advice.

Most don't. From what I've seen of your very crisp and incisive writing, I somehow doubt you do either.

Louise

PS And of course you need 'fiercely'. Personally I don't like the split infinitive, but your post isn't about my individual likes or dislikes. Your 'fiercely' is a classic example of how an adverb can convey tone (and humour) like no other word...

Ryan_Sullivan
07-19-2010, 02:08 AM
You should never cut out an entire type of word--use them! The problem with adverbs is not simply their existence, but rather it's the way people use them. Often writers use things like "slowly" or "quickly" when they aren't needed, or they use weak ones. Go for the adverbs, just use strong ones (often adjectives turned into adverbs can add a lot of voice/punch) to get your point across.

Steam&Ink
07-19-2010, 06:31 AM
What seems to be cropping up is the word "only." It looks like I'm stylistically addicted to it. So far (50 pages) I can't figure out a way to eliminate any of them. Not that I have five in three sentences or anything. But it's by far my favorite adverb.

Well, this isn't about adverbs, but your comment above reminded me of it: when I read my script aloud to my husband (very effective for finding typos and grammar issues), I noticed a surfeit of littles - 260 instances of the word "little", in about the same amount of pages.
I had no idea I was so addicited to such a bland word! So I did word search in Word, and examined each instance with a critical eye. I ended up keeping less than half, and now I feel confident that the remaining littles are justified.

I guess you might do the same for your adverbs? (this is me trying to tie in my random anecdote with the thread theme ;))

Cholisose
07-19-2010, 09:43 AM
The way I understand it is that adverbs can often be replaced with stronger action verbs that make the story more active.
Sometimes the story calls for an adverb to flow well though, in my opinion. There are probably good examples in the published book you may be reading right now.

Greeble
07-19-2010, 02:54 PM
For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?

You should use adverbs sparingly.

shaldna
07-19-2010, 04:25 PM
It's not that cut and dry. If you have 1000 well-used adverbs and flow seamlessly with the story, 1000 is fine. If you have 50 that are used poorly, 50 is too many.


This.

Phaeal
07-19-2010, 05:46 PM
I love strong and vivid verbs, which pwn weak verb plus adverb.

Pwn is a strong, if slangy and community-specific, verb. ;)

Most of the weasel adverbs, like almost, can go. Um, usually.

Danthia
07-19-2010, 06:13 PM
Only is more of a judgment word than a true adverb. I use it a lot myself. What I do, is ignore it in a first draft, then do a search for it after. I make every only bold and red and then look at each one and decide if it needs to be there or not. Often I can get rid of it. If I can't (or like how it reads better with it) I make sure I don't have a bunch more nearby in the text.

Only doesn't jump out that much unless there are a lot close together. If you space them out, and they read smoothly, you shouldn't have a problem.

popmuze
07-19-2010, 06:20 PM
Since this is a first person narrative, sometimes the adverbs are part of the guy's voice, used for hyperbolic effect, as in "she had no use for my obviously clever and totally moving excuse."

seun
07-19-2010, 06:25 PM
For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?


20.643633210. No more than that or the adverb police will come round your house and do you over.

popmuze
07-19-2010, 06:25 PM
I make every only bold and red and then look at each one and decide if it needs to be there or not.


I do the word search thing myself. My character seems addicted to "obviously" and "certainly," which are expendable 99% of the time. Although I like the rhythm they provide. What I do is search for, say, "that" and replace it with "THAT." Then I remove all the unnecessary uses of "THAT." Then I search again for "THAT" and replace it with "that."

Right now my "that" number is 765.

popmuze
07-19-2010, 06:28 PM
20.643633210. No more than that or the adverb police will come round your house and do you over.


I have a very good relationship with the adverb police. Turns out they're the kind of guys who couldn't even get jobs as mall cops. I bought them off with a couple of past participles each.

By the way, I started this adverb removal operation with about 1100. I'll check in with my final figures.

You could do all sorts of word searches. I'm thinking of gerunds next. It's a great way to not actually rewrite the book.

popmuze
07-19-2010, 06:36 PM
Personally I don't like the split infinitive, but your post isn't about my individual likes or dislikes.


Personally, I've never met an infinitive I couldn't split.

Dawnstorm
07-19-2010, 07:45 PM
I have a very good relationship with the adverb police. Turns out they're the kind of guys who couldn't even get jobs as mall cops. I bought them off with a couple of past participles each.

There's a good (and legal) way to reduce your adverb count. You simply adopt a grammatical theory that reduces the number of words that count as adverbs.

You mention "only". Adverb? What adverb? It's a focus particle (http://www.glottopedia.de/index.php/Focus_particle), isn't it?

"He fell down." - "Hah! I caught an adverb!" - "Adverb? What adverb? Down? Oh, don't you know that's an intransitive preposition (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O36-intransitivepreposition.html)?"

And so on. It's amazing how low your adverb count can drop. ;)

popmuze
07-20-2010, 04:58 AM
T What adverb? Down?[/url]?"

I never thought of down as an adverb. I'm only looking at words that end in ly.

Libbie
07-20-2010, 05:23 AM
Be aware of any word you over-use, not just adverbs. I cut countless uses of the word "little" from my finished novel before it went on submission. Ugh! I didn't realize how often I use that word until I was revising.

If "only" is your problem, make sure you search and destroy any that aren't necessary at some point. Try to keep track of any other words you turn to with regularity. You don't want things to get too bland in your book.

Fallen
07-20-2010, 05:50 AM
I never thought of down as an adverb. I'm only looking at words that end in ly.

So now's really not a good time to mention you can have adverb clauses...?

*ducks from pop's slap*

:D

After he hit her (adverb clause), she rubbed her cheek.

the clause is using a time adverb (after, before etc) making it a dependent clause (you need 'she rubbed her cheek' for it to make any sense)

friendlyhobo
07-20-2010, 06:08 AM
Whether or not you think down is an adverb, it can be eliminated, unless your story takes place in a universe where people can fall up.

popmuze
07-20-2010, 06:14 PM
unless your story takes place in a universe where people can fall up.


The (only) thing people do in my book is fall apart.

popmuze
07-20-2010, 06:16 PM
So now's really not a good time to mention you can have adverb clauses...?


So how many of these am I allowed to keep in my book, assuming I (or one of the adverb police) can find them?

popmuze
07-20-2010, 06:40 PM
If "only" is your problem, make sure you search and destroy any that aren't necessary at some point.

If only "only" were my only problem!

Anyway, I just finished cutting the ms down from 147 onlys to 92. Now I have to take a nap.

I used to love "anyway," but I think I got over that one.

popmuze
07-20-2010, 06:41 PM
There ought to be a contest: write a novel using a vocabulary limited to 25 words.

Not that I'd want to read the entries.

PGaritas
07-20-2010, 06:53 PM
147 to 92 is great (for a start). 75,000 words is what, 300 pages? So you're down to one 'only' every three pages, on average. Also, I'm not sure of the general opinion, but I don't worry nearly as much with adverbs in dialogue, for the points you made - rhythm, hyperbole, characterization, etc.

Hunting adverbs with the search function is great fun and I use it when I am uninspired. At least I'm still working. With each adverb I kill, I carve a notch in my mouse. I'm on my fourth mouse this month.

Have a nice nap.

Bartholomew
07-20-2010, 07:08 PM
Okay, there's been a lot of hyperbole lately about the use of adverbs. Or rather the use of no adverbs. But let's get down to facts and figures (before I go out of my mind).

For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?

Lately? The "Die, Adverb, Die" sentiment has been around since my first post. :)

I like adverbs. They do a dirty job, quickly. They're also misunderstood, so I sympathize with them.

Honestly, counting adverbs and trying to find a magic number is just a distraction. You won't be able to win. It's possible to cut all of them, I promise. I've done it, and it is fruitless work. If one agent rejects you solely because of the number of adverbs, another is just as likely to make an offer because she likes the way you've used them.

Fallen
07-20-2010, 08:39 PM
So how many of these am I allowed to keep in my book, assuming I (or one of the adverb police) can find them?

The only limit you have on anything is: 'that really reads like shite...' :D

Then you look at changing it.

PGaritas
07-20-2010, 10:05 PM
Another thought, in those instances where 'only' is used as a necessary adjective, perhaps a synonym would help reduce the 'only' count and spread the love around. e.g. 'my only hope' can be 'last hope' or 'sole hope', etc.

popmuze
07-21-2010, 01:26 AM
The big problem with revising in this (the search and replace) fashion is that it sounds as if I'm just trying to write around the missing adverb. It sounds lumpy and ungainly. I think I'll just leave the ms alone for a week and revise as I read it over.

PGaritas
07-21-2010, 07:13 AM
I hear ya. You can only dis 'only' so much. But hey, you've already cut the count by a third, so that's a great reason to give it a rest for a week.

milly
07-21-2010, 07:18 AM
The rules can suck it. If I want to use an adverb and feel it's the best word for that particular sentence, then by crackey that's what I'm using!

THIS!!!!!

:)

PGaritas
07-21-2010, 08:34 AM
Apt adverbs certainly have their place.

Hallen
07-21-2010, 09:34 AM
Yes, it's a guideline, but guidelines are there for a reason, and not following them usually results in poor, often unpublishable, writing.

It's an odd, and all too common, attitude to think that because something is a guideline, rather than a hard and fast rule, you're free to ignore it completely.

And sometimes, just sometimes, "almost" is needed.

When a word isn't needed, don't use it. When a word makes writing weaker, and adverbs generally do weaken adult writing, using that word anyway, just because guidelines aren't rules, is something we're all allowed to do, but which does weaken writing.

Um, yeah, that's what I said. :D

Guideline means something that should be adhered to most of the time. The implication is that the writer should know the guideline and then justify deviating from it. People may ignore guidelines, but they do so at their own peril. What I was trying to point out was already said by some very good writers in this thread: it isn't on or off, it's a decision based on experience, style, and a good understanding of why they can be bad.

And King does say in his book to avoid adverbs, but he is mostly referring to adverbs in tags: "She said smarmyly". :flag:

Dawnstorm
07-21-2010, 02:54 PM
I never thought of down as an adverb. I'm only looking at words that end in ly.

Some people consider "down" in he "looked down" to be an adverb. It doesn't really matter to writers how you classify words. I was being facetious.

However, "only" is not an adverb in the same way that "sadly", "vaguely" or "honestly" are. It's not an adverb of manner. It's in a group with "also" and "even". Whether or not these words are adverbs is up for debate. (For example, in their non-adjective form they can attach to nouns "only Bob", "even Bob", which is something that adverbs don't normally do.)

If you're serious about:

For a 75,000 word YA manuscript, at what number of adverbs should I start to worry (and to fiercely eliminate them)?

then you'd need to define very clearly what you think an adverb is, because different definitions lead to different word counts (and since "adverb" is pretty much a "category dump" [i.e. if we don't know what we call it, we'll lump it in with the adverbs] the difference might be enormous).

Personally, I think if the only thing that makes you worry about adverbs in your text is their number, the rule's the problem, not the adverbs. Hence me being facetious.