3.02.2007

Verily, I say unto thee

It's abundantly clear that adverbialy speaking, y'all need some help.

Kinda like a rubber band on your wrist for "um".


thanks to Molly for the heads up

31 comments:

tomdg said...

Is "Molly" an adverb? Maybe version 2.0 will look it up and find out ;)

Anonymous said...

Or you could just practice writing well.

Ryan Field said...

This is the at-a-glance signal on the first page of a ms when you know you won't continue.

Kate Thornton said...

Clearly, not all adverbs are the enemy.

Anonymous said...

Question: What in our universe isn't getting done, while people are investing their time and ingenuity on things like this?

Really, Molly. Truly. Madly. Deeply.


Question: Given MS's proclivity toward all things Clooney, does that make the rest of us CLOO-LESS?

Anne said...

Oooh, how cool. Thanks for the tip, Miss Snark! I use the Find function in Word for "ly," but I've dreamed of making it a real program, that only finds adverbs. I've been able to cut close to 2% of the wordcount on a first draft by eliminating the "lys."

Another string that ruins good prose: "ing." As in "He was running" instead of "He ran." Boom, 30% word cut.

Also would like to incorporate a search for phrases like "She realized that" (my worst tic), and "proceeded to," and "now." It's shocking how much I use "now" in the "now" of the story. A little redundant, now, isn't it?

bjh said...

Happily, lys occur sparingly, skillfully and fruitfully, never relentlessly, abundantly nor needlessly negatively, in my lyfe. Er, life.

Anon is right; learn to write well or you may find yourself becoming robotic, too dependant on a program.

Anonymous said...

Gimmicks like this get my goat.

It's not overuse of adverbs that makes bad writing -- it's overuse or misuse of *anything* that makes bad writing.

It's a tempting thought, but no, simply eliminating adverbs will not make a mediocre work into a masterpiece. Try some vitamin B.

A Paperback Writer said...

Wait! Anonymous, "well" is an adverb! Be careful! Adverbs have been declared evil!
(The above warning was brought to you without adverbs, but this sentence contains two adverb phrases. Are those evil?)

Anonymous said...

Isn't "careful" an adverb modifying the verb "be?" Sounds like one.

Certainly our picking out adverbs like chimps on lice won't transform mediocre prose.

BuffySquirrel said...

Not is an adverb. Try eliminating that and see how far you get.

"He was running" and "he ran" are not 100% interchangeable. For example:

"He was running across the road when he saw the truck."

"He ran across the road when he saw the truck."

Writing good prose involves being aware of shades of meaning.

blaironaleash said...

I like adverbs. Rules suck. Punk rock rules.

NO RULES.

Kim Stagliano said...

Someone tell the Lolly's!!!

Anonymous said...

"Isn't "careful" an adverb modifying the verb "be?" Sounds like one."

No, "careful" is an adjective modifying the subject.

-JT

aarin said...

Why would anyone use this? The focus should be on paying attention when you're writing the damn piece, not allowing the computer to just 'fix shit.'

If we don't learn to appraise our own work, we're beyond hopeless.

This is a crutch.

Richard Lewis said...

Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air..." (and did you spot the passive voice?)

Too bad this software wasn't around when Joyce was alive and writing ULYSSES.

Anonymous said...

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Simon Haynes said...

"Too bad this software wasn't around when Joyce was alive and writing ULYSSES."

Too bad hard drive crashes weren't either.

McKoala said...

LOL Simon. Me n' Ulysses never got along.

I don't see anything wrong with this program. It's a tool, not a weapon. Use it as you wish. Most writers have little 'tics' to be aware of. That doesn't make them bad writers, just writers with bad habits. Are any of us so perfect?

I hate the overuse of adverbs and always do a search when I'm finished a draft to see if any unnecessary ones have crept in.

blaironaleash said...

Yay yay yay. Let's all be little writer-bots and churn out identikit indistinguishable prose.

Remember kids: you're in writing to follow the rules. Don't get any ideas about expressing yourself. Or about having ideas, for that matter. Or loving language.

I take it Shakespeare eschewed adverbs too? You kids are eddicated, someone can tell me I'm sure. And if not, into the trashcan he goes!

Just make sure you're following the RIGHT rules: this year's, not last year's. This book's, not that book's.

It's arbitrary, it's dumb, it's cliques/individuals setting themselves up as final authorities, jailers of the language.

It's also science envy, something the humanities tend to suffer from: the desire for absolutes, tests, proofs, formulae. White coats and big glasses. Sociologists formulate 'rules' and 'iron laws' (for real!), then look the other way when real life data fails, embarrassingly, to fit. Writing isn't a science. It won't fit. It cannot be contained.

There are reasonable rules of grammar, but even those can be broken by the right writer, someone feeling it in her gut. This isn't even one of them.

It's subjective, people.

bebe said...

Hello, people, can you say "for entertainment purposes"? What a bunch of sourpusses. And so much judgment of others' writing habits. I suppose real artists never use Strunk & White or--heaven forbid--CTRL-F. Perish the thought.

I know a writer who could use this, though. I won't say who, but her initials are JKR. And the R stands for Rowling.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Shakespeare used adverbs quite sparingly. For example, in the "To be or not to be" speech, there is one adverb.

BuffySquirrel said...

I can say "for entertainment purposes", but it makes the other people in the room look at me oddly.

Kanani said...

Elmore Leonard never uses adverbs.
And over the years, I rarely use them.

Okay, so now that you've all shot down Elmore Leonard as NOT Shakespeare, let me just say that not all adverbs are bad.

However, often they're used as a shortcut to a very good descriptive sentence, and most times adverbs are paired with words we expect, or reinforce the action already happening in the scene.

"She drifted aimlessly through life."
(And sometimes, they're cliches).

The place where adverbs work best is when they're paired with an unexpected word.

"Linda snored wantonly through the teacher's conference."

Anonymous said...

In my story I have a Molly! And of course there's family too. I use "only" only a million times. ctrl + F (ly) is my tool for the adverb blues. Sly, I know.

Anonymous said...

I've spent 20+ years writing and editing professionally, and I can tell you nobody but nobody is too good to slip into bad habits, regardless of style. A tool like this serves an entirely useful purpose if it encourages you to make sure each and every word you write belongs where it is.

The point is not to make everybody write the same way, but to make each writer better. (Sort of the whole point of Miss Snark's valiant efforts, eh what?)

Pax vobiscum

BuffySquirrel said...

Elmore Leonard never uses adverbs.

I suspect this can only be true if you ignore any adverbs that don't end "ly". Otherwise, I find it hard to believe that anyone can eschew all adverbs (including "not") in their writing, and still make sense. Not that I'm claiming Elmore Leonard does make sense.

We can criticise Rowling's use of adverbs all we like, but her millions of sales, fans and quids suggest we're the nitwits, not her.

bebe said...

I don't think Miss Joanne is a nitwit, but that's not because she makes a lot of money, sells a lot of books or has a lot of fans. To point out examples of rich, successful, popular nitwits would be pointing out the obvious to an extent even further than pointing out that Rowling is laughing (unblushingly) all the way to the bank.

You can write a great story with abysmal sentences. And no one else does it to greater success than she.

Alex Green said...

For anyone who cares...

If you want to do something like this for your own writing without having to somehow post your manuscript to the web, you can use the Find and Replace function in MS Word to find all your "ly" adverbs (and, caution, all your "only"s and "really"s as well). Make sure your highlight color is set to some visible bright color, then do a find and replace, replacing "ly " (the space after the "y" is critical) with "ly " and "Highlight" selected in the format drop-down menu (under more options or the "expand this menu" arrow).

Just a little tip. But as I said, be careful, this will get any word that ends in "ly," so "really" and "only," for example (still adverbs, but less offensive) will be marked, so don't go deleting highlighted words all willy-nilly.

BuffySquirrel said...

Exactly. We can obsess about adverbs all we like, but Rowling has proved--I would have thought, conclusively--that writers are far more hung up about such trivia than are readers. A gripping story badly told will knock out a dull story well told any day.

JV said...

Of course Rowling’s books sell well, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect, or above criticism. Of course they could be even better if she wasn’t only a plot mastermind with one of the best book ideas ever but also a good technical writer.

But what if ... perhaps her style is scientifically tailorded for kids, part of her success recipe rather than a defect? Do children find it easier to follow if, when Harry has to move from point A to point B, every stairway, hallway and door opening along the route is there on the page, nothing left out? Do all the adverbs on "said" make things more vivid for young readers?

I wonder if there's research on this. It wouldn't surprise me -- after all, she's from the country that brought us the bizarre but brilliant Teletubbies through research on baby psychology.