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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Oh Adverbs

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

“Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him [Mr. Bingley]. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained.” ~ Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. My sister and I use to have entire conversations in Austen-speak – that is, with the vocabulary and syntax of Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood. Alas, times change. The style of the classics, beloved as they are, read very differently than the modern book. Where Jane Austen writes long, we now write short. Where she describes in detail, we keep the action moving. And where she uses adverbs, we use strong verbs.


Adverb a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, slowly, quietly ).


Oh adverbs. Sometimes the brush of the artist; sometimes the paint-by-number of beginners. One of the first things one learns about the modern writing craft is to cut down on adverbs. Too many is considered poor technique. But don’t write-off adverbs altogether. Good style strikes a balance. Is the adverb appropriate or am I using it to tell when I could show through action or dialogue? Did I just use five adverbs in this paragraph alone? Sometimes an adverb says it just right, but with all those great verbs out there, I only need an adverb every once in a while. Consider the following:

Shakily walked – teetered, wobbled, swayed Said quietly – whispered, murmured, rasped Abruptly stopped – paused, froze, halted Nervously stood – cowered, fidgeted, shrank Boldly declared – announced, proclaimed, asserted

Time to get creative!

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