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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adverbs: Pesky or No?

We are often warned that adverbs can be overdone. Then writers take the warning too literally; they think they shouldn’t use any at all!

Of course, we wouldn't have adverbs if they didn't serve a purpose.

I also find that new authors worry if an editor removes their adverbs. They think those edits will change their voices. These kinds of edits rarely change a voice. Certainly voice isn't achieved by using adverbs or most other edits. It is achieved by much subtler elements of writing. Point of view. Use of colloquialism or slang. Choice of detail. And, certainly, an author can (and should) reject edits that he/she thinks aren't appropriate.

For the most part, I think most writers worry way too much on having their voice changed and not enough about improving their writing skills.

Having said that, I worry more about editors who don’t really have the training to be editors. Would an editor really remove ALL of a writer’s adverbs? And how would a new author know if an editor is overstepping if he/she doesn’t have lots of information on editing under his or her own little writers’ belt?

I do hope those of you who have been relying on an outside editor--someone you hired or a friend--will read The Frugal Editor . It includes lots on how to partner with an editor, how to save money hiring one, how to HIRE one that is compatible with you, and a whole lot more.

Editing is a two-way street. There's gotta be some trust and also some confidence. The more an author knows about editing, the better equipped she or he is to discard or keep edits.

So, yep. Examine every adverby "ly" word. And then use each one to your advantage. Either discard it or use one of the methods in The Frugal Editor to turn them into more visual writing.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at, where writers will find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog.
Find me tweeting writers' resources at And please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

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