Are you adverb-ly?
- beautiful – beautifully
- tired – tiredly
Adverbs add description to the actions taking place, for example:
- The cat purred loudly as she stretched.
- Walking slowly, Fergal wondered absently if he’d missed the train.
- As usual, Fern yawn widely and hit the snooze button lazily before turning over and going back to sleep.
There are many warnings against the abuse of adverbs – when you are tempted to use an adverb, ask yourself if more description would enhance the writing, or if the adverb is defunct because of the phrasing. Have a look at the differences between these sentences:
- “I’m sleepy,” Fergal yawned tiredly.
- Martha ate the entire block of chocolate greedily.
- Fern looked guiltily at her abandoned novel.
- The coffee pot gurgled happily.
In the first two sentences the adverbs aren’t necessary – Fergal has said he’s sleepy, so why describe it further with the adverb? To eat the entire block of chocolate, Martha is either greedy or starving – more context in the narrative will help ascertain this without need of an adverb.
In the last two sentences, the adverbs enhance the action. If Fern looked at her abandoned novel happily, it would imply she had moved on to a better, brighter idea. The happy gurgle from the coffee pot implies the narrator is optimistic about the day, or perhaps the coffee pot has recently been repaired and no longer splutters and chokes.
In On Writing, Stephen King writes: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Like commas, they are not to be abused!