Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Those Dratted "ly" Words

It's funny. Before I started this writing thing, I used to think adverbs were good things. You know, those nice little modifiers that describe verbs. Great tools provided by the creators of the English language.

Like fouls in basketball, they're there to be used.

But then I started reading about the craft of writing in books and blogs and webpages ... and from what I read you'd think those nifty little adverbs were bad. I was surprised because I remember exercises in school where we were taught to use them.

Oh, and then I remembered that what they teach you in school isn't necessarily the best way to do things in the real world. So, I did a search of my completed WIP, and guess how many "ly" words I had?


Uh oh.

As I've gone through in this edit, I noticed that using "ly" words is easy. They do the job so well, in fact, that they're a little too easy--because there are other ways to phrase sentences, and sometimes those other ways result in much better writing.

But should I conclude that all adverbs are bad? What do you think? Is this concern mostly an American issue? Do you other English speakers have issues with adverbs? Rowling used them liberally. Should we cut them out completely as one of the articles below suggests, or should we just use them with discretion? Are they okay to use but not in dialogue?

What's your philosophy?

Following are some articles I've read these tools little devils:

Those "ly" Ending Words

Seriously, What's So Bad About Adverbs?

Maybe Not All Adverbs Are Bad Guys


  1. I like adverbs! There I admit it, but like you, I have become all too aware that adverbs are regarded as lazy writing.

    Limit to two a page - max. That is the advice an editor gave me.

  2. Well, it's not much different here in the United Kingdom...we use adverbs at our peril.

  3. I'm always surprised to see so many adverbs in novels. I was also advised to limit 2 per page. Olive

  4. There are rules and suggestions, but I still listen to writing. How does the sentence sound? How can I make it sound better? I think that, for me, there isn't anything wrong with adverbs but my better sounding sentences don't usually have any.

  5. Limiting them is a must. Very very few in the novel, BUT as a lover of the -ly, I also recommend using them whenever you feel you have to. Quitting cold turkey could result in an -ly relapse. ;)

  6. I agree Becky. I find as I'm trying to cut down on the sheer number of ly words that it often takes more words to say the same thing.

    Colene, you made me smile. Cold turkey, indeed. =D


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