Use adverbs sparingly. At their best, they spice up a verb or adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in the sentence:
- The blast completely destroyed the church office.
- The cheerleader gyrated wildly before the screaming fans.
- The accident totally severed the boy’s arm.
- The spy peered furtively through the bushes.
Consider the effect of deleting the adverbs:
- The blast destroyed the church office.
- The cheerleader gyrated before the screaming fans.
- The accident severed the boy’s arm.
- The spy peered through the bushes.
In each case, the edit shortens the sentence, sharpens the point and creates elbow room for the verb.
Try this at home: Look through a recent story (whether something you’ve written or the work of another author) for any word that ends in -ly. If it is an adverb, delete it and read the new sentence aloud. You’ll see whether the adverb added power to the sentence or merely took up space.
Have you missed a Coffee Break Course? Here’s our complete lineup.