The Adverbial Dialectic: When To Use Adverbs When Writing & Not to Use

The Ongoing Debate About the Adverb & The Advantages of Taking Pointers From Both Sides of the Argument for Your Writing

Still Want to Finely Hone This Post. It needs work.

Up and coming: My Personal Writing Methodology and/or…TBA

First, to be clear, I do not believe THERE ARE HARD AND FAST RULES to writing.

With that said, I proceed to post musings which I had hoped would be delivered in a more scholarly fashion.

And, yes, I used an adverb there. I am telling on myself:

(Exhibit A for the plaintiff, Mr. Adverbuser

…and the prosecutor hasn’t even sat down yet.)

 However, I thought for too many hours. I researched, read, and even made a careful study of the way a well-written show by J.J. Abrams was written for adverb usage to try to look at the patterns I could find and better understand when, if ever, there is a good time and proper place for adverbs.

I found that there appear to be cases where adverbs are used effectively. Even, there is added purpose given to the story in some cases when an adverb is used. Adverbs can add varieties of special touches and added meaning to storylines and tales. It does not mean it is BAD writing in every case, nor does it mean to take the red pen out and with resolute, across-the-board-ink, change every adverb case in whatever you have written. An adverb may be useful when it: Adds poetry. Adds affect. Adds time parameters. Adds emphasis. Adds subtext. Adds commonality in intimate conversation. That which is artsy and flowery language, which seem to be an area of description for which the adverb falls, ultimately, has it’s place of fostering necessity, I think.


So, when is it wise to avoid, even, omit entirely adverbs, they say?

I found that when you find yourself telling with your adverbs, you are failing to show your reader a picture of the scene and action. It is though you are telling a friend about an event that occurred in the past, say last night, but they were not eyewitness to the account.

When you use adverbs you will often fail to move the action of a story along as well.

You may be overusing your adverbs, leaving your reader amidst this dense forest of -lys, where he/she will be remiss to plunder through the mess of it and stop reading altogether. It becomes overwhelming in the way a story reads. Adverbs are potent like any spice. A dash here or a sprinkle there…this is a way to find a balance and not place limitations on yourself or your writing and still tell a story that enriches and delivers effectively.

There are times when purpose is begotten out of use of adverb-age, however.

Example of Telling With Adverbs vs Showing With Adverbs

You may say things where you are more expressive utilizing the more personalized speaking verbiage; for example,

“the moment we saw him coming, we humbly bowed our heads to show our unworthiness of his presence,”

rather than had you described the event as it was happening,

“I, as well as those, who stood on either side of me, lowered our heads as this dignitary entered the room.”

As mentioned, one of the appropriate times that adverbs can be used for added purpose and effect, would be if you wanted to point to the time frame with respect to the entry of a person of honor. You can still show with your reader how the scene appears, even if you tack on an adverb in this case:

“I, as well as those, who stood on either side of me, lowered out heads as this dignitary entered the room, secondarily. My instinct was to bow the moment his head’s profile revealed itself from the nearby entryway. The others followed my lead, though they were a bit late on their greeting. He noticed.”

There is perhaps, verbosity here. The attempt for me, personally, as I wrote this, was to build the action slowly, one layer at a time, with the adverb, serving as a time reference, as well as for effect. There is subtext that implied reverence AND shame with the heads being bowed. Adding “secondarily” I felt was not redundant but emphasizing his entry with their reverence being delayed a tad and subtextually feeling shame for something which the reader does not know until the last sentence. Effective, perhaps. I am a beginner writer. I am not going to handicap myself quite yet, at least, by cutting off possibilities with the language that I may use. That could inhibit my finding my voice as a writer.

I read in a wonderful article, for which there are few, on why we should not limit ourselves to the use of adverbs. It was noted that adverbs are one of the four major parts of speech in the English language, where each plays a specific role.

So, ask yourself, when and, perhaps, every time you use an adverb:


Am I adding to, emphasizing, enhancing in each instance you find yourself using an adverb or am I repeating myself or, even worse, diluting the action altogether?


When is it wise to not limit yourself as a writer by omitting adverbs altogether?

Above, I pointed out that as a fairly new creative writer (I have been writing all of my life and been publishing poetry since I was in my teens,) I am treading this territory so as not to limit myself by omitting any possibilities for what I may write. I also need and am searching for my voice as a writer still. Limiting that voice in any way, no matter how immature it may be at this time, would potentially, –(yes, I went there)– inhibit the developmental process altogether. Why stunt the growth and the process as a whole when I have an entire language to explore with all its positives and negatives. How will I learn if I never make the mistakes?

I read and see quotes all the time regarding the importance and, even necessity for us to be mistaken and with awareness embrace it.


What am I aiming towards as a writer with respect to adverbs?

My suggestion is a dialectic where the extremes synthesize and mesh, becoming a place for you as writer where adverb usage is moderate, effective, and purposeful.


Websites To Get the Creative Writing Juices Flowing

Incredible Articles on Writing: Information for Writers & Tips To Help Write A Stronger Character


*Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 3: The Thing Your Character Wants vs. The Thing Your Character Needs

*Write Your New Novel Today! | 3 Worksheets to Get Started


*The 100 Most Important Things To Know About Your Character (revised)

*Creating Character Arcs Workbook by K.M. Weiland $3.99 on Kindle on Amazon


*Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 4: Your Character’s Ghost

*Story Arc | A Simple Way to Understand Plot


A WORK IN PROGRESS=>to be added on to…

Misconceptions About Writers

Just Some General Misunderstandings About What It Is To Be A Writer

Do You Actually Believe Any of These Yourself?

If any of the below ring true to your own concept of what it is to be a writer, you may want to educate yourself by actually engaging and asking some questions to anyone you may know that writes full-time, considering it a career. You may be greatly surprised by what you find and your eyes could feel open to the potential that there are, perhaps, other stereotypes or misbeliefs that you hold about groups of people in general. These are the kinds of miscalculations people arrive at and consider deterministic that can be harmful to others in society, and particularly to someone who you may consider a friend or is a family member.

I asked a group, online, consisting of 17,714 people (this was exclusively a group of people interested in or engaged regularly in creative writing,) what are the most common misconceptions most people have about writers. Thank you to all in Creative Writers who participated.

Here are the list of suggested illusions people mistake with respect to being a writer:

  • We are all starving artists.
  • We still live with our parents at age 30.
  • We all want to be the next Rowling, King, Martin, Sparks, etc.
  • We are all living in a damp basement.
  • We are drunks and/or addicts…
  • Writing isn’t a real job.
  • We’re wealthy; that is, one becomes rich the moment he/she is published.
  • It’s easy to write a book–anyone can do that.
  • We are all intellectuals.
  • We are hermits.
  • We all suffer, or simply have, rather, OCD behaviors.
  • We are allergic to “workin’ for the man’.”
  • We sit at home all day and watch tv (or whatever other activity pleases us) and never actually write.
  • We write about our friends and just change the names, like with just one letter.
  • Writers are weird.
  • We have exquisite taste.
  • We don’t eat or breathe anything but writing all the time.
  • We are all either famous or ‘wanna be’s’.
  • We all want to sit in a quiet place to write.
  • Water is a writer’s best friend.
  • Writer’s are romantics.
  • We are ‘high brow’ people who have trouble talking to ‘normal’ people.
  • People talk in our heads but we aren’t crazy. (lol–WOW!)
  • We’ve never worked a normal job in our lives.
  • It’s all about becoming rich and famous.