The road to hell is paved with adverbs

Stephen King said that the sin of telling often begins with adverbs, and that for writers, the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

I’m experimenting with adverb free writing. Apparently adverbs are not my friends.

The purpose of adverb-free writing is to create vivid pictures and meaning with strong precise verbs rather than using adverbs as a crutch.

The use of adverbs is commonplace. Our conversations are peppered with adverbs qualifying our verbs. Krista from WordPress wrote:

Adverbs…are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind….With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Instead of using adverbs as a crutch, rely on strong verbs to convey emotional qualities that imbue your writing with nuance, allowing the reader to fire up their imagination. Consider, for example:

“She walked proudly out the door.”

Remove the adverb “proudly” and replace it with a strong verb to denote how she walked:

She strutted out the door.

She sashayed out the door.

She flounced out the door.

Each example connotes the emotion with which “she” moved, creating a more vivid picture than “proudly” ever could.

Read on…adverb free writing…the story is true.

I turned the key, the engine sputtered to life, and died. I waited 10 seconds and turned the key once more. This time the engine did not even turn, the click click click of the ignition confirming my worst suspicions.

Through a process of elimination Che concluded that the battery was fine. The problem was much more serious – electrical fault!

A call to the Hyundai service centre yielded an unhelpful “sorry we can’t fetch your car” response to my plea for help. Needless to say I was not charmed. I made a promise that I would find any service centre to fix my car as long as it was not a Hyundai one. 

Che then offered to fix my car. He works from home and had some spare time this week. So that is how, for 3 days this week, he chauffeured me to work and back. 

This commute was characterised by debate, storytelling and laughter. We made an event out of this break from normality – each evening, on our way home we enjoyed dinner at a different restaurant.  

The alternator turned out to be fine. The malfunction was caused by one of the 120 amp fuses blowing when Che connected the battery to the charger. Lesson learnt.

A wonderful Che washed and valet my car too. Shame, I don’t often get it washed. And it smells nice inside courtesy of lavender scented dash polish. So my car is happy.  And I am happy that I did not have to lash out much cash to resolve the issue.

In order to write the above without adverbs I wrote the piece as I would blog it, then proceeded to identify and replace adverbs with strong verbs.

A respectable effort, don’t you think?

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