Don’t Use Adverbs? Book Reviewers Use Them!
Adverbs have been thoroughly trashed in the writer’s world. Read more about that here: Who Murdered Those Poor, Pitiful Adverbs?
Even so, adverbs remain a handy tool in the writer’s toolbox. Adverbs modify (add meaning) to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. “At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or an adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in [the verb].” Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
Look carefully, and you will find those ostracized adverbs being featured prominently in book review blurbs. Check these out:
“Wickedly funny, deviously twisted and enormously satisfying. This is a big juicy bite of zombie goodness. Two decaying thumbs up!”
Jonathan Maberry on Kevin J. Anderson’s, Death Warmed Over: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.
“Rather than rest on her laurels, Grafton does the exact opposite, and U is for Undertow is her most structurally complex, psychologically potent book to date.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review included on flyleaf of Sue Grafton’s, V is for Vengeance
“A slice of American history beautifully told by three young Americans coming of age in a turbulent time.”
Jodi Thomas, New York Times best-selling author on Jan Morrill’s, The Red Kimono
“Move over, grumpy schoolmarms everywhere. Your time has come. For the writer or wannabe, Sin and Syntax is urgently needed, updated, and hip guide to modern language and writing.”
Jon Katz, media critic and author of Running to the Mountain, on Constance Hale’s, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose.
“It’s a miracle, a daybreak, a man on the moon . . . so impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving.”
Baltimore Sun on Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Novel
And finally, there’s this:
Adverbs by Daniel Handler
No, this book is not about adverbs; it’s actually an unusual love story, and let’s even say, a very unusual love story. Every chapter boasts it own adverb title: Immediately, Obviously, Arguably, Particularly, Briefly, Soundly, Frigidly, Collectively, and so on for nine more adverb-laden chapter titles. Here’s one review blurb:
“Gymnastic prose . . . brilliantly turned reminders that there are a million ways to describe love and none of them will be the last word.”
New York Times Book Review
The Last Meow: A Cat-A-Log of Advice for Writers
So book reviewers use a lot of adverbs. Okay. Just don’t copy their style for lengthier pieces of writing. Follow the sound advice given by professional writers:
1. Use strong nouns and verbs in your writing. Don’t rely on weak adverbs to rev up common everyday verbs.
…the hackneyed result [of using weak verbs and weak adverbs] is immediately apparent.
Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
2. Use distinctive, fresh, surprising adverbs, and your writing will shine. Here are a few examples from The New Yorker:
…maddeningly inaccessible… (Tribeca Cinemas in NYC)
Silvia Killingsworth, “Takes for Two,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013
..the large color pictures are…gritty, intimate, and bracingly authentic (Polaroids by Mike Brodie)
Chelsea Gallery, The New Yorker, April 1, 2003
…an outlandishly sensual red-vinyl church interior by Rodney McMillian
ART, Museums and Libraries, Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Yorker, April 1, 2013
Marc Fisher, “The Master,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013
Perhaps book reviews use too many adverbs, but adverbs can be a writer’s friend if used wisely, surprisingly, and judiciously.
And now it’s nap time. All this teaching tires me out.
Meow for Now. =<^;^>=
Well, there has to be somewhere for those poor excised adverbs to go….
Right, Kate. Even adverbs need a place in life! A tantalizing adverb now and then is just the ticket. Thanks for your visit.
I love adverbs and tend to overindulge with them in my writing!
Adverbs can be used well, so they don’t need to go into extinction!
There’s always a place for the odd adverb. ‘The First Five Pages’ is full of excellent advice. It influenced my writing for the better, but still a long way to go. Thanks for the follow, Janice. I’ll hang around your blog a bit and hope to cement some rules in my head!
Nice to meet you, Christine. I am just about to start a new blog specifically focused on writing craft. I will let you know when I launch it. I hope to have it up and running within a week as I am doing all the prep work now. Have a super day.
That’s great. I have an online MOOC, at FutureLearn, but not until the end of October. Next month I’ll repeat a short course I flunked with Coursera. I didn’t put in the final assignment, bogged down with understanding sentence structure. I need all the help I can get, so I look forward to your new blog.
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