Adverb Liberation Front

I don’t know why, but the ‘don’t use adverbs’ rule irritates me. Abverbs are just another thingamajig in a writer’s toolkit. Yes – they can be overused. Yes -they should be replaced by strong verbs when the strong verb is more appropiate. But adverbs can be just as useful as any other word family of our modern syntax.


I suspect the real reason why adverbs are viewed with suspicion is that they are usually crutch words. Everyone knows to avoid ‘very’ and ‘really’. ‘Actually’ is one of my crutch words, and is an offender for a lot of other people. I now run ‘actually’ through my word search function when I complete a story; even though I am aware of the problem, it still turns up.

crutch word cloud

Crutch words – the usual suspects

Some people work on the rule ‘one adverb a page’ Some writers refuse to use adverbs at all. It is time to change this outdated way of thinking! So I have formed the ADVERB LIBERATION FRONT. Writers should be able to use any word they want! With confidence! Lovingly.

The only time a writer should avoid adverbs is when a writer is feeling lazy and using them to do all the heavy lifting in their prose. Think of adverbs as a condiment; a few adds to the flavour, but too many ruins the dish.


Filed under The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Writing Career, Writing Style

6 responses to “Adverb Liberation Front

  1. I’m not much up on all these fancy-pants grammarjargon things, but I do know what an adverb is. And if truth be known: I have *no idea* if I even USE them, or how often, or how effectively.
    Regardless – my books got published and no-one complained. Not even teachers, and I’ve met a few (hundred).

    Rules; schmules.

  2. I think this is a case of sensible advice—try replacing adverbs with stronger verbs—turned into some kind of dogma. I became a much better and happier writer once I let this rule go.

  3. I generally agree that adverbs can be crutches for lame writing (see what I did there?). But like most rules, they’re meant to be broken, but should only be broken by those who know what they’re doing. Replacing adverbs with more descriptive and specific verbs almost always works out better. “Ambled” or “sauntered” rather than walked aimlessly. Is “sighed wistfully” better than just “sighed”? But on the other hand “gazed hopefully into her eyes” has a certain emotion attached to it that “looked at her” doesn’t.

    • You are an experienced writer. Your prose is taunt and crisp … you don’t waffle on using filler words. Less confident writers often fall into bad habits. I like to use adverbs, because I think they have a valid part to play in grammar. However, I do overuse my crutch words when doing a first draft. The good thing is knowing what those words are … and using the ‘search’ and delete buttons in my word processor.

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