Adverbs – Are they contagious?

Jacqui Murray has posted several writer’s tips on her blog which I am using as a sort of check-list for my rewriting/editing process. Tip #2 Ban Weak Adverbs, reminded us to use them sparingly. She recommended using the find feature on your word programme to seek out -ly words. Then reconstruct the sentence or use a stronger verb to get rid of those weak adverbs.

Yesterday, I followed her tip and spent about an hour looking through my entire manuscript. I did not have that many weak adverbs left after my first editing sweeps, just a few sprinkled here or there, except for in one chapter. That chapter also is the longest chapter in my novel. I found it riddled with the word “really” and I am not quite sure why but I guess it was a case of once I used the first one, they decided to somehow multiply. Honestly, there were over thirty of them. I think I have now managed to pluck all but one from the entire manuscript. I will be more conscious of this in the future.

Is there an adverb or other type of word you find yourself using to excess in your writing that “really” is not needed there?


About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a primary and middle school teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three and a wannabe author.
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11 Responses to Adverbs – Are they contagious?

  1. Jody Moller says:

    Had to go straight to the WIP and perform a find on the word ‘really’ – 24 times! Ahhhh! Deep breath – it’s only a first draft I can fix it later 🙂

  2. The other ones that popped up everywhere in my current work in progress when I checked it this morning were ‘very’ and ‘only’ but like you I am thankful that one is a first draft.

  3. I also search out ‘was’ (I’ve been told 2x on a page is the max), -ing words, ‘had’, and ‘eyes’ that fly all over (you know–‘his eyes flew to the corner of the room’). I have a big list I go through. I can always tell when I had a bad writing day because my mss is covered with that kind of stuff

    • I didn’t have too many flying eyes in this one but I have to weed through the ‘was’ words still.

      Not bad for -ing either but that word ‘really’ must have got in there and gone viral.

      Checked my WIP which is only at about 35,000 words and found that really, only, finally, very, clearly and surely seemed to have started breeding already.

  4. I check for every ‘was’ and then rewrite the sentence to make it stronger. Some was’s are okay though. I also check for ‘thats – they are usually unneeded. Ly words are okay in some instances, but if I am reading something and there are several on each page, then those need to go, and I will tell the writer as much (even if it’s myself!). Especially if it’s the same one repeatedly. Funny how we can write the same words over and over in the process of doing a first draft. The mind likes repetition, I think. But that is where rewrites are so important.

    • ‘Was’ is currently like a sliver in my big toe. It is painful trying to walk with it in and I am working on pulling it out which still hurts but I know it will be better in the long run. I have quite a bit of passive sentences in this piece hence the need for the major rewrite.

  5. Selena says:

    for some reason I use “that” waaayyy too often. Good post!

  6. I find myself using the word ‘particularly’ a lot. It’s a strange word to overuse, no? Now, every time I write it I have to stop myself and think “Wait. Is there a better way to say that?”

    I’m reminded of a post on Bunny Ears & Bat Wings ( that talked, among other things, about “cutting out the fat” in writing. I think the advice is geared a bit more towards non-fiction than fiction, but I’ve found it to be good food for thought in both genres.

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  8. Pingback: The Perils of Adverbs « bardicblogger

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