Adverb Horror: What is an Adverb? #Editingtips

zombie girl with loong hair in an abandoned building


As an editor I have run into what I call: adverb horror.

What is an adverb? Let’s find out!

Defining an Adverb

An adverb is a word that describes – or modifies, as grammarians put it – a verb, an adjective or another adverb.

  • A verb is an action word (jump, run, swim, skip, fish, talk)
  • An adjective is a descriptive word that describes a noun (spicy, happy, silly, cloudy)
  • A noun is a person, place or thing (boy, cat, mom)

It is easy to see how adverbs describe, or modify, verbs, since they simply explain most about the action. For example:

  • He silently runs
  • She quickly walks
  • He cheerfully chatters

Adverbs can also describe adjectives or other adverbs. They provide more information about that other descriptive word.  For example:

  • He very silently runs. In this sentence, silently is an adverb describing the word runs. Very is another adverb, this time describing the word silently.
  • The very silly girl sat down. In this sentence, silly is an adjective describing the noun girl. Very is an adverb describing the adjective silly.

Now that we got that straight. Unless you want your book to turn into Twilight, avoid the adverbs. Some in moderation are okay such as: “I can’t believe you did that,” he said quietly.

A few of these sentences aren’t too horrifying, but to improve your writing, you want to do something like this: “I can’t believe you did that.” His voice dropped down to a whisper.

Too many adverbs can turn into a nightmare. There are many ways to change adverbs in your novel.

Example: (Adverb horror): “Listen to me!” he said angrily.

Example: (I love you): “Listen to me!” His hands tightened into fists, his face turning a deep shade of red.

Now what would you prefer as a reader? See how avoiding the adverbs paints a better picture?  Avoid the horror show.

Check out my editing packages, and I’ll help you avoid those adverb horrors! 




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