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The Rapport

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Welcome to The Raport - a Tuesday gathering place for writers on MFUWSS!
It's a place to plop down for a visit. A place to talk about what you're working on. About how the writing's going. About your accomplishments. About the bumpy bits along the way. Share a snippet, if you're so inclined!

The coffee's ready. Grab a mug. Let's talk:)


February 14, 2017

"I adore adverbs; they are the only qualifications I really much respect."
- Henry James

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
- Stephen King

"If you are using an adverb, you are using the wrong verb."
- Kingsley Amis


It's Valentine's Day.  Let's talk about the love-hate relationship writers have with adverbs.

I came across a chapter on adverbs in 'Writing Tools' by Roy Peter Clark.
"Tool 5. Watch those adverbs. Use them to change the meaning of words."

Wait. What? Use them?  So adverbs aren't purely evil?  Whoops. So adverbs aren't evil incarnate?

Clark says, "At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in it:
The blast completely destroyed the church office.
The cheerleader gyrated wildly before the screaming fans.
The accident totally severed the boy's arm.
The spy peered furtively through the bushes."

In these examples, Clark says we should drop the adverb because it "shortens the sentence, sharpens the point, and creates elbow room for the verb. Feel free to disagree."  I agree with Clark's advice to drop those adverbs, but I like that he allows the writer the freedom to choose.

A second fix is to find a better verb. Clark says, "How much better that "the audience pattered applause" than that it "applauded politely."

Clark shows us how adverbs can be a good thing - when they change the meaning of the verb. "To understand the difference between a good adverb and a bad adverb, consider these two sentences: "She smiled happily" and "She smiled sadly." Which one works best? The first seems weak because "smiled" contains the meaning of "happily." On the other hand, "sadly" changes the meaning."

Finally, Clark talks about attributes used by J.K. Rowling, who loves adverbs:
"said Hermione timidly."
"said Hermione faintly."
'he said simply."
"said Hagrid grumpily."
"said Hagrid irritably."

Oh boy. Attributes. That's a topic in itself.

Clarks' final advice? "If you want more money than the Queen of England, maybe you should use more adverbs. If your aspirations, like mine, are more modest, use them sparingly."


Are you an ever-vigilant scrubber of adverbs? When do you use them?

What have you been working on this week?  How's the writing going?  Feel free to share a snippet!
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