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Dale Emery
11-20-2008, 01:17 PM
From my favorite comic, Frazz:
http://comics.com/frazz/2008-11-20/

Dale

Alpha Echo
11-20-2008, 03:46 PM
I get frustrated with this rule. I understand why it's a rule, and most of the time I follow it. but sometimes, the rule is just meant to be broken, just like all the others.

whiterose
11-20-2008, 04:07 PM
Using adverbs rapidly causes one to write badly.

Nakhlasmoke
11-20-2008, 04:21 PM
I like adverbs muchly. And adjectives.

And starting sentences with the word and.

:D

Exir
11-20-2008, 05:16 PM
The trouble with adverbs is that writers give them much more trouble than they deserve.

Julie Worth
11-20-2008, 05:20 PM
I get frustrated with this rule. I understand why it's a rule, and most of the time I follow it. but sometimes, the rule is just meant to be broken, just like all the others.

It's not a rule, it's a rule of thumb. Adverbs used not too muchly are fine.

maestrowork
11-20-2008, 06:47 PM
It's not a rule. Adverbs are useful in many cases, to get a point across. The problem with adverbs is that some writers tend of overuse them:


"I'm leaving now," she said angrily. Then she walked away briskly. She quickly stopped at the bakery and fondly remembered going there as a little girl.

Another problem is that it's lazy writing -- many of the verb-adverb pairs can be replaced with stronger verbs, so why does the writer not write more strongly [see, I used an adverb here]? Also, adverbs are by nature "tell" instead of "show." We're saying she said "angrily" without showing us how she is angry.

Let's look at the sentence above:

1. "angrily" can be shown more effectively.
2. "walked away briskly" can be replaced by a stronger verb
3. "quickly stopped" is redundant -- simply "stopped" would be fine
4. "fondly remembered" is telling and cliched, plus it's probably better rewritten as "fond memories [verb] her..."

Again, adverbs are not all bad. I used a couple in this post. They add flavors. Obviously every adverb can be replaced by something else, but if you do that, you may stiffen your prose. Still, you need to scrutinize every adverb you use and see if it should exist.

Shadow_Ferret
11-20-2008, 06:51 PM
Never understood why some people shy away from using certain writing tools. It would be like cooks all declaring, Never use paprika.

Alpha Echo
11-20-2008, 07:05 PM
Again, adverbs are not all bad. I used a couple in this post. They add flavors. Obviously every adverb can be replaced by something else, but if you do that, you may stiffen your prose. Still, you need to scrutinize every adverb you use and see if it should exist.

I completely agree. I know that there are many situations you can SHOW (blah another rule) the adverb rather than tell it. I agree that when revising, you should see if there is a better way to get your point across. I was just saying that...I guess I'm just sick of all the rules. Especially when most of the books I read don't follow any of them.

I'm not saying that I ignore the rules. I'll never stand a chance at finding an agent if I do. Plus, when the rules are mostly followed, the writing is better.

But I'm sick of them nonetheless, I'm sick of them.

Dawnstorm
11-20-2008, 09:43 PM
Well, according to the comic adverbs are bad because they commit you to a meaning. ;)

scarletpeaches
11-20-2008, 09:46 PM
I passionately hate adverbs more than split infinitives, which cause me to quickly vomit.

DeleyanLee
11-20-2008, 09:47 PM
I get frustrated with this rule. I understand why it's a rule, and most of the time I follow it. but sometimes, the rule is just meant to be broken, just like all the others.

My question always is: If every "rule" has exceptions, can they really be rules? Does the fact that they're "just meant to be broken" mean that they're really guidelines to be understood and not blindly followed?

mscelina
11-20-2008, 09:49 PM
I've discovered as an editor that 90 % of adverbs can be eliminated in favor of stronger predicates.

So I eliminate 80% of them. Adverbs do have a place in writing and they are important tools. What I've discovered is that the same adverbs are used over and over: suddenly, quickly, slowly, angrily, happily, probably, usually, really etc etc. and that some of them (suddenly in particular) are misused. Getting shot at out of the blue is sudden, sitting up in bed rarely is.

That being said, adverbs remain my greatest and worst addiction in my writing. I let them fly all over the place in my first drafts, where I use them to signpost the emotions I'm spotlighting in the scene, and then on the second I get rid of them in favor of better and more active verbs.

Saint Fool
11-20-2008, 09:51 PM
When writing first drafts, I consider adverbs as placeholders. When editing, I almost always find a better verb or phrase to get the point across. But sometimes, an adverb is best and I let it stand.

scarletpeaches
11-20-2008, 09:52 PM
I use adverbs all the time in dialogue because that's how people speak. Most people aren't grammatically or syntactically (is that even a word?) correct in their speech.

In exposition, though, I shave 'em right back. Hate the buggers. Stephen King called them dandelions, didn't he?

Dale Emery
11-20-2008, 10:11 PM
It ain't a rule, it's a punch line.

When people talk about rules, I hear them as preferences. Then I try to identify the effects of following the rule and the effects of breaking it. Usually there's wisdom in the rule, but it isn't contextualized. The rule expresses a way to get the effect that you usually want, but it doesn't know what effects you're trying to create in any specific situation.

Dale

Mr. Chuckletrousers
11-20-2008, 10:15 PM
syntactically (is that even a word?)
Yes.

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 01:13 AM
My goals when writing are brevity and clarity. If I can fold a verb+adverb pair into a single, stronger verb, then I usually do so. But that's just one of a large set of rules I apply.

ZeroFlowne
11-21-2008, 01:25 AM
I excitedly use adverbs when it's really appropriate, but mercilessly cut them out otherwise.

maestrowork
11-21-2008, 01:32 AM
I excitedly use adverbs when it's really appropriate, but mercilessly cut them out otherwise.

I use adverbs with much excitement when it's appropriate, but cut them out without mercy otherwise.

Whew -- much better now.

:)

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 01:34 AM
With excitement I use adverbs with much excitement when it's they're appropriate, but cut them out without mercy otherwise.

Whew -- much better now.

:)

Much betterer!

:)

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 01:35 AM
I use adverbs with much excitement when it's appropriate, but cut them out without mercy otherwise.

Whew -- much better now.

:)I use adverbs when appropriate. Otherwise, I cut them.

Even better.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 01:36 AM
I use adverbs when appropriate. Otherwise, I cut them.

Even better.

I use adverbs when appropriate.

Better still! :D

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 01:37 AM
Hard to improve that one. We're approaching elegance.

ZeroFlowne
11-21-2008, 01:43 AM
I use adverbs :-)

maestrowork
11-21-2008, 01:50 AM
STIFF sentence alert!

SPMiller
11-21-2008, 01:53 AM
Only for you, Ray ;)

Dale Emery
11-21-2008, 02:15 AM
"When appropriate" is kinda like "when it works": Hard to argue with, but offering little guidance.

It seems to me that "appropriate" and "works" mean something like "creates effects that I want." But what effects? And when do you want them?

So, a few questions:

What are some of the effects of using adverbs? In what situations do you want those effects? In what situations do you want to avoid those effects? What are some alternative ways to achieve those effects? Give examples.

What are some effects of omitting or deleting adverbs? In what situations do you want those effects? In what situations do you want to avoid those effects? What are some alternative ways of achieving those effects? Give examples.

What other questions might elicit useful guidance about using adverbs? How would you answer those questions?

Dale

FennelGiraffe
11-21-2008, 02:46 AM
There are two valid reasons for using an adverb: specificity of meaning and rhythm of the sentence. If the adverb doesn't serve one of those, it isn't appropriate.

Mr. Chuckletrousers
11-21-2008, 02:58 AM
What are some of the effects of using adverbs?
Adverbs give flavor to dull verbs. They also lard sentences with unnecessary words: Why use dull verbs that have to be fleshed out with adverbs when you can just use more evocative and interesting verbs? Sentences without adverbs are punchier -- shorter and less complicated. Adverbs, especially when used serially and successively all in one clause, can make sentences feel flabby and overly complicated.


In what situations do you want those effects?
You might want a flabbier, adverb-laden sentence every once in a while to mix things up, and/or if you want to slow down the reader for a moment -- perhaps to let something sink in, create a particular rhythm, or give emphasis to a particular aspect of a verb (though this only works if you use adverbs rarely).


In what situations do you want to avoid those effects?
If you don't want to bore or annoy the reader with flabby, complicated sentences composed of dull verbs that need flavor additives.


What are some alternative ways to achieve those effects? Give examples.
Use a stronger verb instead of a dull verb + adverb combo. e.g.:

The man ran quickly.
vs
The man sprinted.
The man dashed.
The man darted.
etc


What are some effects of omitting or deleting adverbs?
If you don't change the verbs too then you might end up with undescriptive sentences that don't sufficiently paint an image for the reader.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 02:59 AM
He of the amusing bloomers has spoken.

blacbird
11-21-2008, 03:06 AM
Another problem is that it's lazy writing.

This, to me, is the biggest problem with adverbs. Yeah, once in a while, used sparingly, adverbs have their place, so I'm not in the do-away-with-them-all camp, but far too many writers use them as a crutch to evade the harder work of more vivid writing.

caw

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 03:07 AM
And the writers using adverbs as crutches tend to be the ones who tell, rather than show.

This is of course, merely my personal observation.

Mad Queen
11-21-2008, 05:36 AM
Another problem is that it's lazy writing.
Not only I agree with this but I also confess every time I'm writing in a hurry I resort to adverbs and adjectives (the other crutch). 'She stared angrily' is way easier and faster to write than a proper sentence that shows, not tells. Of course these sentences will have to go away in later drafts.

maestrowork
11-21-2008, 05:45 AM
Using crutches in drafts (including cliches, tell vs. show, etc.) is fine.

Just don't let the agent see them.

Dale Emery
11-21-2008, 06:12 AM
Another problem is that it's lazy writing.

I don't understand. What makes lazy writing per se a problem?

Dale

Dawnstorm
11-21-2008, 12:04 PM
Use a stronger verb instead of a dull verb + adverb combo. e.g.:

The man ran quickly.
vs
The man sprinted.
The man dashed.
The man darted.

A valuable technique, that. But the fault lies with the imprecise verb, not the adverb. You could still add the adverb to the more precise verb, say, in a sentence like this:


The man didn't sprint as quickly as the cheetah.

Or the adverb could be unrelated:


Joe ran elegantly through the door.

---->

Joe darted elegantly through the door. I didn't know one could dart elegantly. But, then, Joe does [i]everything elegantly.

[Note that in contexts of comparisons of some sort, such as the above examples, adverbs are quite useful. You can still write around them, sure, but do you need to? (Note that, while adverbs do have comparative forms, such as "quicklier", I'm not exceedingly fond of those. They have their place, I suppose, but, well...)]

Apart from comparing stuff, adverbs are helpful for emphasis:


The man ran quickly. Very quickly.

This does not have the same "feel", as:


The man sprinted quickly. // The man sprinted very quickly. // The man sprinted. Very quickly.

The repetition of the word itself contributes to the emphasis. Apart from repetition of the adverb, you can use "placement" to change the emphasis of the sentence:


Quickly, the man ran dwon the street.

The man quickly ran down the street.

The man ran down the street quickly.[/quote]

All those are somewhat different from:

[indent]The man [ran quickly] down the street.

You cannot achive this sort of effect with a single verb, no matter how strong. (You may think that a strong verb is worth more than such a placement effect, but then you can have both the strong verb and the placement effect in the same sentence:

[indent]Quickly, the man sprinted dwon the street.

The man quickly sprinted down the street.

The man sprinted down the street quickly.[/quote]

Why not? :D

***

See? We're choosing a weak verb and blame the adverb, when it's really a matter of a weak active vocabulary. You won't avoid that sort of mistake by learning to avoid adverbs; improving your active vocabulary is a better bet.

ctrl+f + "-ly", however, is a good word-processor method for finding weak verbs. You won't catch them all, though; and not all "-ly" adverbs point towards weak verbs. See? In this case, at least, the adverbs are innocent.

blacbird
11-21-2008, 01:00 PM
The man quickly sprinted down the street.

The man sprinted down the street quickly.

Why not? :D


How do you sprint, other than "quickly"?

I never saw anybody sprint "slowly" . . . no, wait a minute . . . I was on a very bad track team in college . . . but that's a digression.

caw

Dawnstorm
11-21-2008, 03:06 PM
How do you sprint, other than "quickly"?

I never saw anybody sprint "slowly" . . . no, wait a minute . . . I was on a very bad track team in college . . . but that's a digression.

caw

Redundant but emphatic. Or perhaps there's a suggestion of "quicker than expected". It's a context thing. There may not be many contexts that support the sentence. I'm aware that's not a very satisfactory answer. And adverbs that are clearly non-redundant make for better examples anyway. Still...

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 03:42 PM
Sprinting, by its very definition, is a quick activity. Even if it's quicker than expected, it's still quick, so the adverb would always be redundant.

Dale Emery
11-21-2008, 03:45 PM
Quickerlier, then.

Dawnstorm
11-21-2008, 04:00 PM
Sprinting, by its very definition, is a quick activity. Even if it's quicker than expected, it's still quick, so the adverb would always be redundant.

I do not entirely disagree (am I allowed to say "meh" yet, or do I have to wait for Collins?), but riddle me this:

What's the difference between saying:

"He sprinted quickly."

and

"This is a big elephant."

Is it that "big" is not part of the definition of "elephant", just a relation between the elephant and the assessing human?

I mean there are big elephents and small elephants, just as there are small mice and big mice. And a big mouse, hopefully, is smaller than a small elephant.

So what's so strange about "quick sprints" and "slow sprints" (or by extension "sprinting quickly" and "sprinting slowly")?

I do hope you folks don't disagree with my use of "quickly" in:

"The man didn't sprint as quickly as the cheetah!"

[I wish I could think of a good context, or a similar practical example... it's always hard to talk abstractly, that makes us wish to apply more logic than language actually supports... :o ]

Mr. Chuckletrousers
11-21-2008, 04:51 PM
I do not entirely disagree (am I allowed to say "meh" yet, or do I have to wait for Collins?), but riddle me this:

What's the difference between saying:

"He sprinted quickly."

and

"This is a big elephant."

Is it that "big" is not part of the definition of "elephant", just a relation between the elephant and the assessing human?

I mean there are big elephents and small elephants, just as there are small mice and big mice. And a big mouse, hopefully, is smaller than a small elephant.

So what's so strange about "quick sprints" and "slow sprints" (or by extension "sprinting quickly" and "sprinting slowly")?

I do hope you folks don't disagree with my use of "quickly" in:

"The man didn't sprint as quickly as the cheetah!"

[I wish I could think of a good context, or a similar practical example... it's always hard to talk abstractly, that makes us wish to apply more logic than language actually supports... :o ]
Actually, comparatives like your sentence above are good examples of when adverbs are sometimes necessary. When you are comparing two things and saying one is more or less or equal to the other in some respect, then either you have to use an adjective or an adverb. I can't say why at the moment (because I haven't figured it out), but sometimes it seems only an adjective will fit and sometimes only an adverb will fit. e.g.

Sarah smiled as innocently as Eve.
*Sarah smiled as innocent as Eve.

vs

Tom jumped as high as George.
*Tom jumped as highly as George.

And sometimes both are equally good:

The man didn't sprint as fast as the cheetah.
The man didn't sprint as quickly as the cheetah.

maestrowork
11-21-2008, 06:17 PM
Redundant but emphatic. Or perhaps there's a suggestion of "quicker than expected". It's a context thing. There may not be many contexts that support the sentence. I'm aware that's not a very satisfactory answer. And adverbs that are clearly non-redundant make for better examples anyway. Still...

No, the agent would just laugh. "Sprint" already is quick. If you want to say quicker than sprint, then try another verb.


That's another problem with adverbs and adjectives -- they may be redundant. She sprinted quickly. She is gorgeously beautiful.



Big elephant vs. small is comparative adjective. You can have a runt or a baby elephant that really isn't all that big. And usually when you say "big elephant" you're comparing to other elephants, not humans or mice. But sprint is not a comparative verb. It already means "run really fast" so a "slow sprint" doesn't make sense -- that would be a jog. Like "miniscule" already means very small, so a "miniscule elephant" does not make sense.

Not all words are created equal. Some have comparative meanings, and some more absolute. As writers, we have to weigh our words more carefully.

"He didn't sprint as fast as the cheetah" is okay because it's now comparative. They both run really fast -- one just isn't as fast as the other.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 08:39 PM
What's the difference between saying:

"He sprinted quickly."

and

"This is a big elephant."

Sprinting is inherently quick. Not all elephants are inherently big (it could be a baby, or small in comparison to something bigger).


So what's so strange about "quick sprints" and "slow sprints" (or by extension "sprinting quickly" and "sprinting slowly")?

What's strange is that there's no such thing as a slow sprint.


I do hope you folks don't disagree with my use of "quickly" in:

"The man didn't sprint as quickly as the cheetah!"

I'd be okay with that, because the man sprinted, and it was fast, but in comparison to the cheetah's sprint, his was slow.

Revelationz
11-21-2008, 09:25 PM
Mastering the English language is like taming a lion- one wrong word and the next thing you know three people are dead, your leg is ripped off, and the ringmaster is being humped to death by the lion while you're wondering, "What went wrong?"

The IQ of this board has been officially lowered by 10 points. You're welcome! :D

Dawnstorm
11-21-2008, 10:45 PM
Phew, for a moment I was worried about the comparisons...

***

While I do see a difference between "small elephants" and "slow sprints" in acceptability, I still can't put my finger on it. None of the posts above have managed to provide "convincing" reasons.

See:

An elephant is an animal. Compared to other animals, elephants are big. (Whales are bigger.) But if you add the descriptor "big" to "animal", you get a frame shift: that is, you're now comparing elephants to elephants, not elephants to other animals.

A sprint is a type of run. Compared to other runs, a sprint is quick. (Dashes are quicker?) But if you add "quick" to "sprint", apparantly no frameshift occurs. You're not comparing sprints. Why?


It already means "run really fast" so a "slow sprint" doesn't make sense -- that would be a jog.

Actually no. A jog and a sprint have decidedly different body postures. Even an incredibly slow sprint (like a person caught in slow motion for some inexplicable reason) would be recognisable as a sprint. Even if you overtake them ambling. (You would wonder wtf is going on, though.)

So in the end, yes, that there is no such thing as a "slow sprint" is indeed strange. Is it that we can't perceive the range with our mere eyes?

maestrowork
11-21-2008, 11:00 PM
A sprint is a type of run. Compared to other runs, a sprint is quick. (Dashes are quicker?) But if you add "quick" to "sprint", apparantly no frameshift occurs. You're not comparing sprints. Why?

Comparing sprint to what? There is no context, no inherent comparison. When we say, "he sprinted" we're not comparing it to anything other than, well, he sprinted. We're not comparing his sprint to Usain Bolt. When we say it's a "big elephant" it's intrinsic that we're comparing elephant to elephant.

Besides, your logic is flawed since "big" is an adjective and it's comparative -- big, bigger, biggest. "Sprint" is a verb -- there's no inherent comparative in that verb -- it either is "run fast" or not. If it's faster than a sprint, it's a dash. Thus "he sprinted quickly" is a redundancy the same as saying "run quickly quickly." I mean, would you say "he dashed quickly"? That would mean, what, "he ran quickly quickly quickly"?

Seriously, there's no such thing as a slow sprint -- which would be a run (a jog would be a slow run), or like you said... wouldn't be a sprint at all. You're just trying to argue for argument's sake.

scarletpeaches
11-21-2008, 11:09 PM
Phew, for a moment I was worried about the comparisons...

***

While I do see a difference between "small elephants" and "slow sprints" in acceptability, I still can't put my finger on it. None of the posts above have managed to provide "convincing" reasons.

See:

An elephant is an animal. Compared to other animals, elephants are big. (Whales are bigger.) But if you add the descriptor "big" to "animal", you get a frame shift: that is, you're now comparing elephants to elephants, not elephants to other animals.

A sprint is a type of run. Compared to other runs, a sprint is quick. (Dashes are quicker?) But if you add "quick" to "sprint", apparantly no frameshift occurs. You're not comparing sprints. Why?



Actually no. A jog and a sprint have decidedly different body postures. Even an incredibly slow sprint (like a person caught in slow motion for some inexplicable reason) would be recognisable as a sprint. Even if you overtake them ambling. (You would wonder wtf is going on, though.)

So in the end, yes, that there is no such thing as a "slow sprint" is indeed strange. Is it that we can't perceive the range with our mere eyes?

Okay, let me break it down for you:

The word 'sprint' is an absolute. There are no degrees of sprinting. You're either sprinting, or you're not.

The word 'big' is relative. For a word to be relative, it has to be in relation to something else. To me, an elephant is big. To a whale, it is not. There are degrees of bigness.

Dawnstorm
11-22-2008, 12:44 AM
There are degrees of bigness, and there are degrees of quickness. A sprint doesn't have a fixed speed, just as an elephant doesn't have a fixed size. So what's the difference?


You're just trying to argue for argument's sake.

I sometimes wonder, and then I think I should just shut up. But I do think it's important to figure these things out, or else all we're doing is covering up a "because-I-think-so" with faux rationality.

scarletpeaches
11-22-2008, 12:46 AM
A sprint doesn't have a fixed speed, but it does have an inherent quality of speed.

Sheesh.

Otherwise it's like saying heat feels cold. There are degrees of heat, but...it's still hot.

Mad Queen
11-22-2008, 12:53 AM
To me there is only one way to sprint and that's fast. If you are sprinting slowly, then you aren't sprinting. The dictionary says:

sprint
verb [NO OBJ. , WITH ADVERBIAL OF DIRECTION]
run at full speed over a short distance: I saw Charlie sprinting through the traffic towards me.
'At full speed' is absolute.