Take a look at what Michelle Douglas says about adverbs.

One of the main gripes about adverbs is that they are redundant – too often they merely repeat the meaning of the verb. Eg:

  • She ran quickly through the woods
  • He shouted loudly at the dogs
  • She tiptoed quietly to the door.                        

In all of these instances removing the adverb does not change the meaning of the sentence. In fact, removing the adverb makes each sentence stronger.
So, when is an adverb good? John Gardner gave us the answer above – when it startles. An adverb startles when it modifies the verb in an unexpected way.

She smiled happily. She smiled sadly.

Which do you think is stronger? In the first example ‘happily’ is redundant. The sentence reads better without it. Smiled and sadly, however, is an unlikely pairing. The adverb ‘sadly’ immediately changes our perception of that smile. The song title ‘Killing Me Softly,’ is another example of a good adverb.

A word of warning, though, these wonderful and startling adverbs carry more weight when they are used with a light hand. Stephen King’s problem with adverbs is their tendency to sprout up like dandelions. I forone do not want a story riddled with noxious weeds. Adverbs, like any of the tools at a writer’s disposal, are only useful if we give them the right job to do. So, the next time you pick up you work-in-progress check it over and rate your adverbs – are they really doing the job you want?

Michelle’s third romance The Aristocrat And The Single Mum is an April release and has received 41⁄2 stars from Romantic Times. For more info on Michelle and her books please visit her website at:


1 Comment

Filed under A Writer’s Notebook

One response to “Adverbs

  1. Pauline

    Great advice about role of adverbs.


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