4 Ways Adverbs Weaken Writing

by | Dec 4, 2023 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

As a writer, you probably either love or hate adverbs. If you’re not in the loop yet, there is actually a huge controversy regarding how adverbs in writing can actually weaken the message.


Do Adverbs Have a Place in Writing?

adverbs in writing

Some people love adverbs and use them all the time; others wish they would drop off the face of the writing world. Some people think adverbs are useful for fiction but have no place in SEO content writing. It’s not that adverbs in writing are bad in and of themselves. They can provide valuable information connected to the action of a sentence.

– When I told the joke, Charlotte smiled brightly.

– When I told the joke, Charlotte smiled wanly.

In these two sentences, the adverb at the end conveys an important message as to how Charlotte smiled. However, it’s important not to get too dependent on using adverbs in your writing. ‘


Why Are Adverbs Bad in Writing?

Here are four ways adverbs weaken writing:


1. Adverbs Tell Rather Than Show

It’s good to leave some interpretation open to your reader. To say that “Charlotte smiled brightly” tells the readers how she smiled, but it doesn’t really show it. Adverbs modify the action of the sentence, but they don’t provide action themselves. Good writing illustrates a picture without the need to explicitly tell.

– When I told the joke, Charlotte’s face lit up.

– When I told the joke, only half of Charlotte’s mouth curved up.


2. Adverbs Can Be Redundant

why are adverbs bad in writing

Depending on the verb you choose to use, you could be repeating yourself when you use an adverb in your writing. For example, “tiptoe quietly.” Have you ever heard someone tiptoe? Unless they are wearing metal shoes that clang with every step and are thrusting each foot into the floor, it’s safe to assume that a tiptoe is quiet.


3. Adverbs Take Up Valuable Space

Your time is limited to catch a reader’s attention. From the opening line of a science fiction novel to the call to action of a webpage, you need to grab your audience’s attention in a limited amount of space. Adverbs in writing fill that valuable real estate with often redundant and pointless wording. Writers should be concise. Take out the fluff. Ask yourself if the word needs to be there. Whenever you need to trim down a piece to fall within a specific word count, adverbs are usually the first to go.


4. Adverbs Make You Seem Like a Lazy Writer

using adverbs in writing

The use of adverbs in writing says a lot about you as a writer. Learning new vocabulary and finding innovative ways to convey a concept to your readers shows that you are willing to grow with your writing. A constant reliance on adverbs makes it look like you aren’t even trying to think of a better word. Learning to cut the unnecessary adverbs is part of moving from novice to professional writer.


Be Aware of Using Adverbs in Writing

You don’t have to become anti-adverb to be a good writer; you just need to be adverb-aware. Adverbs in writing provide (hopefully) additional information about the sentence’s action. If an adverb is necessary to the sentence and doesn’t create a redundancy, it’s probably ok to use.

Do you think adverbs weaken writing or strengthen it? Why? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Britainy Sorenson
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