Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why editors hate adverbs

One reason editors get their red pens out and viciously delete adverbs from an author’s work is because they do nothing to aid the story. One of my pet hates is visibly.

She shook her head visibly.

Okay. Have you even seen anyone shake their head invisibly? No. So why add visibly here? Why not use a useful word: Violently? Slightly?

Modifying superlatives. The whole point of a superlative is that it’s the biggest and best word there is. Modifying it is just a waste of ink.

For example, unique. Unique means one of a kind. If it is a unique bowl and you want to tell us more about it, saying it is very unique or most unique tells us nothing. Tell us it’s green or big or something else.

And while I’m talking about just, very, nice, etc most of them can be deleted without changing the meaning at all. Try looking for a useful word that tells as more about the thing you’re describing.

Adverbs can actually be very quite helpful. Just make sure the ones you use are relevant.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Great post! Liked your illustrations.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Thanks Anny. Nice to see you.