Adverb: Friend or Enemy?

The world famous writer, Stephen King, said “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

King claims that the adverb is not a writers friend, but why not?

For those of you who need to be brushed up on their grammar and vocabulary, an adverb can be defined as a word that modifies an adjective, verb or another adverb. They are usually words that end in -ly.

Loudly, beautifully, horribly, etc.

Some can argue that when a writer includes adverbs, it is because they have run out of things to say or they don’t know how to reword it in a better way. Do a writer’s sentences really need adverbs? Does it benefit them in any way?

Here are some sentences without any adverbs:

“Go away!” she yelled.

“Why won’t anyone help me?” he cried

“We’re getting married!” she said.

Now here are the same sentences, with adverbs:

“Go away!” she yelled angrily.

“Why won’t anyone help me?” he cried loudly.

“We’re getting married!” she said joyfully.

Adverbs only make these sentences weaker. In order to be a good writer, we have to learn how to write just as well, without adverbs.

Stephen King once said, “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild — timidity is the word I’ve used here. If, however, one is working under deadline — a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample — that fear may be intense. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”


One thought on “Adverb: Friend or Enemy?

  1. adlere353 April 22, 2015 / 1:44 am

    I’ve heard this bit about adverbs before. Apparently, editors often get into disputes with authors about them because authors claim that the adverbs they use are essential while editors want to omit them all. Even though I just used an adverb, I side with King in saying that they represent bad writing. Sometimes they seem necessary, but they tend to drag sentences out and dilute the meaning. I make a conscious attempt to keep adverbs at a minimum when I write but it’s really hard.


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