We’ve all seen it. Chances are, we’ve all done it at one time or another. What am I talking about? Overusing –ly adverbs. That’s right, adding those little –ly words to make the verb seem stronger. Too bad that tends to weaken the sentence rather than make it stronger.
Here’s an example of the –ly adverb at its worst:
Kelly ran quickly into the store.
Not only does that sentence use an unnecessary –ly adverb, it’s redundant. Of course Kelly is moving quickly if she’s running. So how can this sentence be fixed? Either delete “quickly” or replace “ran quickly” with a stronger verb. Here’s the change I’d make:
Kelly darted into the store.
By replacing “ran quickly,” the –ly adverb is gone and Kelly’s movement is described in a way that helps the reader picture it better.
Another example of –ly adverb overuse:
The sun shone hotly down causing Brandon to thirstily gaze around in search of blessedly refreshing water.
Yikes. Not only are the –ly adverbs threatening to take over, the sentence is clunky and hard to read. Take a look at the revised version:
The sun blazed down, and Brandon’s parched throat prompted his search for a refreshing glass of water.
Not only have the –ly adverbs been removed, the reader gets a better idea of Brandon’s thirst. It’s amazing how much a few simple word changes can convey the intended feelings much more clearly.
Here’s a tip for dealing with those pesky –ly adverbs: whenever you spot one in your manuscript, consider whether there’s a stronger verb to convey what you’re trying to show. Those little adverbs are rarely necessary, so a word change to get rid of one may be just the thing to make your manuscript shine just a little more.