Adverbs: Make Them
into Magical Writing Aids
all writers these days. We blog. We text. We may even
promote our own businesses by writing books or copy for
ads. So why not make what we do stand out. One way to
do that is to use a metaphor or simile.
may say, easier said than done. But wait! You can pick
out much maligned adverbs and turn them into metaphor
aren’t necessarily the writers’ enemies they’ve
been made out to be. Obviously they serve a function or
they would disappear from our language. The trouble is,
writers often use them as a crutch. I like making them
into magic writing aids, instead.
the Reader's Digest feature “Toward More Picturesque
Speech”? That's what we’re after and we're
trying to use great metaphors and similes to do it.
when I was speaking to the Small Publishers of North America
(SPAN), someone in the audience asked if there was a site
that would give him a list of good metaphors to improve
the imagery in his writing. I told him that if there was,
it would probably be a list of clichés or a list
of what would fast become clichés once everyone
started using them. That was before I knew this adverb
trick which works better than any list or I would have
shared this tip with him.
search for adverbs in your copy can yield metaphors or
similes, the kinds of associations that allow you to find
and insert flecks of solid gold into your work.
you’re searching for adverbs you may first determine
that they are redundant. “She ran quickly”
is an example because running, by its nature, is quick.
But you must have wanted something more or you wouldn’t
have used “quickly.” So ask yourself, “quickly
as what?” You might come up with “quickly
as a gazelle.” You’ll tell yourself, “that’s
a cliché” and try again.
the new try would include a stab at a metaphor. “She
became a blur, bicycle spokes in motion.”
this approach works beautifully. Sometimes--you may have
noticed--not. When that happens just ditch the adverb
and try strengthening the verb. My thesaurus suggests
race, dart, and gallop.
kind of edit can open doors for better imagery—help
give your reader a visual or other sensory experience.
It can also suggest possibilities for humor—something
that may be welcomed by readers of all kinds—including
those bored with the same old abbreviations and quickie,
of the advantages of editing adverbs--indeed any kind
of systematic editing --is that you'll begin to write
more concisely. Or at least more memorably. Even your
text may take on a voice of their own.
you do, the gremlins I talk about in The
Frugal Editor may spot a professional and move to
Tips and Tidbits
(Each month in this box, Carolyn
lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote
better. She will also include a Tip to help readers
find a treasure among long-neglected books or a
sapphire among the newly-published.)
multi award-winning The
Frugal Editor is now in its second
edition—as an e-book (the print edition
is coming a bit later.) It’s been reformatted,
updated and expanded.
Tip for Readers' Tip:
I mentioned that many readers—you
know, general folk—are writing more
these days. And publishing, too, as part of
their day jobs. Here's a booklet for those
who want to know more about printing and self-publishing.
Titled A Guide To Book Printing &
Self-Publishing, it is free and frugal
and especially good if you are just beginning
to accrue knowledge about the big, difficult
self-publishing world. It’s from Gorham
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Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist, poet
and author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of
how-to books. She occasionally teaches classes for the
renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program.
Website - My
Review Blog - Email