300 Days of Better Writing

April 19, 2010

Replacing Adverbs with Action Verbs

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 9:50 am

Adverbs describing actions are often overused, particularly those adverbs that end in “-ly.” A writer will use one of these adverbs to explain how an action is performed. A reader, however, will form a mental image of the action, and then must revise that image based on the adverbs.

This can cause momentary confusion and misinterpretation of the text. Also, using these adverbs can lead to text that is too wordy.

In most cases, the adverbs can be removed by using the correct action verb. Consider this sentence.

“The man walked quickly and agitatedly toward the phone.”

By choosing a different verb, the two adverbs can be removed:

“The man hurried toward the phone.”

Do you need to remove every adverb? No. Some adverbs can provide clarity and “flavor” to your writing. The problem, however, is that they are overused.

Find your adverbs and find the verbs they describe. Consider using a more accurate action verb. If the intended meaning isn’t changed, and if the sentence still gives the same impression to the reader, revise the sentence to use the new verb.

(This is the tip for day 63 in 300 Days of Better Writing.)

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