Saturday, February 18, 2006

Using the “Write” Words to Strengthen Your Writing

Your ability to use the right words to convey your message is one of the most important aspects of creative writing. Using the wrong words can not only muddle your message, it can also weakens your writing. One example of this is the overuse of adverbs.

Adverbs are often called "-ly words," because they commonly end in -ly. By definition, the adverb is the part of speech that "modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb." In my last post, I quoted Stephen King's words, "Kill your darlings." Adverbs were some of the darlings to which he was referring.

When you overuse adverbs, it weakens your writing, whether you write fiction, hard news, essay or poetry. For example, instead of, "She cried really hard," say, "She sobbed," or, even better, "Sobs wracked her body." See how much stronger an image that creates? The reader can envision what you're writing about.

Of course, in the throes of creativity, it's difficult to stop and weed out all the adverbs. I don't suggest you do that. Rather, once you've captured your thoughts on paper, go back through and pick out each adverb and put it through a test. Can the verb-adverb combo be replaced by a stronger verb? If so, replace it. If you can't find a stronger verb, see if the adverb is even needed. Often, it won't be. For example, in the phrase, "He was terribly handsome in a forbidding kind of way," do you need the word "terribly"? No. When you say, "The play was hugely successful," do you need to say "hugely"?

It's your writing. Why don't you decide?

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