Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Though shall not utilize words that endeth in "ly"

One of my advanced screenwriting classes used to poke fun at my insistence that they drop all adverbs. "No words that end with 'ly'!" I would shout at them.

"So we can't use only?" One would ask.

"Nor lonely?" Another would chime in.

"You know what I mean!" And I'd practice my meanest glare, while we all laughed.

But as I talked my media writing class through edit notes the other day, I was reminded of the dreaded adverb, and realized it's a lesson that can help tighten all styles of writing. Consider this example:

He walks slowly.

Now how else can you state this?

He plods.

Much more declarative. Stronger. And the extra bonus? Fewer words. Twitter folks aren't the only ones who should be concerned with shortening their posts; we can all strengthen our messages by tightening our prose.

So the next time you sit down to edit your writing, challenge yourself to eliminate all adverbs, while retaining the meaning you are trying to convey with the replacement verb. I think you'll be happy with the results.

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