editing / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #2: Ban Weak Adverbs

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong?

Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.  Please add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

Adverbs support verbs. Adverbs help explain the action of the verb. What that means is, find a better verb. How do you do this?

  • Use Word’s Find function to locate all ly endings. Why ly? It’s because most adverbs end in -ly –quickly, softly, you get the idea.
  • Notice the verb it’s attached to.
  • Use your thesaurus, synonym finder, thesaurus.com or the right click on Word to find a better, more descriptive verb.
  • You can’t replace all adverbs, just many, and that will pick up the pace of your story, tighten it, make your readers happier

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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17 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #2: Ban Weak Adverbs

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Tips for Writers in 2014 | WordDreams...

  2. Hi Jacqui
    As you’d said, I found the ly words, no problem. But how do I then find the verbs for those words? Thesaurus gives only Synonyms, not the verbs. Am I missing the obvious? Thanks. Arun


    • I usually close my eyes, put my head back, and ponder. If the stars are aligned, the right word comes to me. Other times, it’ll pop in my head in the middle of a sound sleep. My muse arrives when it suits her.


    • Do a Word search for it. Word will even highlight them-all for you. When they glare out at you in yellow from the page, it’ll force you to take notice.

      But, don’t worry about it on the first draft. Just write. Get the story out and then edit.

      I’m impressed you speak Swahili and Dutch. Wow. And you write so well in English.


  3. Pingback: Adverbs – Are they contagious? | Out of the Woods

    • It’s a hard one, though. When I started getting rid of adverbs, I had to find a whole lot more–and better verbs. I developed a list just to jog my memory. This writing’s a tough job!


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