Monday, 29 June 2015

Damn You Adverbs!

As I'm editing Immortal Space I'm using a nifty little website called Hemingway. It's a nifty little site that tells you when a sentence is hard to read, when you use the passive voice, and the amount of adverbs you use. Adverbs are those words that help further define a verb. For example if you say how someone says something then you use an adverb. Like "He said quietly". Quietly is the adverb there.
Thanks random website!
I don't know why but Hemingway has a serious problem with adverbs. It turns out I use them a lot, a strategy it strongly disagrees with. I mean, look at just how many adverbs I used in that last sentence! I noticed though that the more I cut the adverbs down, the lower the reading grade of my work. That lead me to a quick conclusion that makes this whole editing process a lot easier; I kind of need adverbs. If I don't have them, and I break up the sentences like Hemingway wants me to, then everything becomes too simple. The whole thing reads like a children's book. No offence to children's books but they don't read very well when you're old enough to comprehend actual sentences and stories.
Best kids book ever?
I don't even know what makes adverbs bad. I think the only word I really overuse really, is the word really. I mean, I really, really, use it like, a really large amount. Okay I'm just messing there but I have noticed an over-abundance of that word. Just that one though really.

So let that be a lesson to you; adverbs are the devil. At the same time they aren't. Sometimes you want your sentences to be hard to read. You want slightly complicated words that end in "ly". Unless you're writing a kids book that is.

12 comments:

  1. I haven't written in so long, I can't even recall if my writing style is heavy on the adverbs or not. According to the site Caves has 586, where I should be aiming for 101. Okay.
    The problem you have with "really" is one I have with "very", apparently. Out of the 105 phrases that have simpler alternatives, (according to ctrl+f) 100 of those are a "very" that should be omitted. Interesting.

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    1. The main problem I have is that I enjoy defining things. I don't like just saying how something happened, I have to say more. Especially when it comes to conversations. It's way too easy to sound like talking heads and have a whole "He said, she said." thing going on.

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  2. Can't see what is so bad about adverbs myself.

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  3. Just for kicks, I uploaded a novel - the one that I consider my personal best. The one that won critical acclaim with a prestigious literary agent and who two people have told me is the single greatest book they read that year. It says 513 sentences are "hard to read." It says 465 are "very hard to read." And it says I used 725 adverbs, while I should have "only" used 56.

    If I had uploaded this story and seen all of these so-called "errors" I might have gotten extremely self conscious about my writing, re-written everything, and essentially destroyed my own masterpiece.

    The moral of the story? Don't listen to a stupid website. If it sounds right, do it. The general rule among writers is not to abuse adverbs, but if it sounds right in the sentence and adds to the story, then go for it. There is no magic number for anything in writing. So please, just don't wreck your own masterpiece over the robotic output from a website's generic formula.

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    1. I hope you didn't break your computer doing that. It took about ten seconds for all of IS to load into there. Don't worry about me doing something like that. I learned that lesson in about three chapters. Now my biggest problem is, and remains, formatting. When to start a paragraph and all of that stuff. I think formatting the thing properly will lower the page count by about fifty pages or so.

      Like I said the site is useful for an initial input but the only reason to make everything "perfect" through it would be something incredibly simple like a childrens book. When I write one of those I'll conform to every suggestion it makes.

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  4. Are there any editorial websites called "Dickens" or "Austen"? They may be more forgiving of adverbs and complex sentence structure, LOL!

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  5. Our professors in college HATED adverbs. For our second drafts, they usually encouraged us to re-read what we wrote and delete all of them, unless one was absolutely necessary. I think a lot of writers tend to use them too much, but sometimes you do need them. It's good to be aware of how many you're throwing into descriptions, the same with trying not to overuse the passive voice, but I agree with Beer for the Shower--don't listen to a robot. Your writing is good, listen to your instincts.

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    1. A lack of them just makes everything sound so boring though. I think I'd have different opinions about what is "essential" than your professors. Thanks for the input and encouragement Mich. My writing has gotten loads better. Despite the fact I still used "loads" in a sentence like that.

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  6. Adverbs are only bad when people don't know what they are or how to use them, people like me

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  7. I wish I knew about this site when I was still in high school. There's not much essay writing to do in architecture school....

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  8. I guess if you find an audience it really doesn't matter how little you know about the technical aspects of writing. Look at that "50 Shades of Grey" book.

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  9. I killed an adverb once. They haven't found the body yet.

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