Adverbially speaking, use them sparingly


Brave Writer mom, Tara, shared how her kids put a Daily Writing Tip into practice. The tip was:

Adverbs (those “ly” words – and others – that dress up your verb and take it to dinner) ought to be used about as often as an evening gown: special occasions, or special sentences. But on the whole, go for a more direct description.

It’s too easy to slap on a descriptor and give up the hard work of making the image, event, idea, or person spring to life through action or concrete language.

For instance, if you write:

She cuddled the dog gently.

The reader is left to imagine what you mean by a gentle cuddle. If you instead SHOW me the cuddle, I create a firmer image in my mind:

She cuddled the dog, stroking his soft ears with her fingertips and resting her tummy on his back.

Each time you write an adverb, ask yourself if you are “showing” or “telling.” Then choose to “show.” You’ll be glad you did.

Tara emailed:

Julie –

Loved yesterday’s Daily Writing Tip. Here are the sentences we started with…and our modified sentences:

I loudly said to my brother, “Get off the computer!”
I said to my brother in my loudest inside voice, “Get off the computer!”
I said to my brother in a voice loud enough for him to hear with his headphones on, “Get off the computer!”

She walked quietly into the room.
She tiptoed into the room, trying not to make any sound at all.
She came into the room, her feel making no noise as she walked.

I carefully walked on the balance beam.
I top toed across the balance beam, trying my best not to fall.
I walked across the beam, using my balance so as not to fall off.
I walked across the balance beam, each heel landing directly in front of the other toes.

I threw the ball quickly.
I there the ball with such a ferocious speed the bater saw only a blur whizzing by his face.

My two youngest were totally engaged. Fun stuff.

Thanks for the great ideas. We are using and loving them.


That’s exactly how it’s done! Bravo!

Also, if you haven’t already, check out our new product, 100 Writing Tips: Volume 1!

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