In school, we learn that in order to descriptively modify a verb, we add an adverb. The adverb is used to modify a verb, adjective or other adverb to answer one of the following questions; how? how often? where? when? or in what way? Most adverbs can easily be identified by their -ly ending, although not every adverb ends in -ly.
In The Adverb Is Not Your Friend: Stephen King on Simplicity of Style, Maria Popova gives us some insight into Stephen King’s view on adverbs. “Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind…With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or picture across.” If you don’t use an adverb to get your point across, how does the reader know things like the frequency or manner in which the action is carried out? Simple. The reader should be able to decipher this information for themselves from the prose leading up to the event. If the preceding prose paints the proper picture, then the use of the adverb is redundant.
Stephen King likens adverbs to dandelions. “If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely and profligately covered with dandelions.” When trying to determine if or when to use an adverb, keep in mind, that simple is best and you want to use them sparingly. “I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions…and not even then, if you can avoid it.”
As writer’s we have to give our readers the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to figure out what we are trying to tell them without pointing it out. “Fear is at the root of most bad writing.” Don’t let your fear ruin your style.