Adverbial Analysis

“I can’t believe it,” I told my writing group angrily, waving my iPad at them melodramatically. “My online critique colleagues said that my writing had too many adverbs!”

“I wonder why people dislike adverbs?” Genevieve wondered curiously.

We were at a retreat in the Hunter Valley, trying to get our writing projects done, and drinking wine and gluten-free beer, although I sadly feared that there was less of the former and more of the latter.

Martin leaned forward sanguinely, swirling a glass of wine in his hands. “The idea is that the dialogue should stand by itself,” he said pedagogically. “The reader should ‘hear’ the dialogue mentally, and colour it with their perceptions of the characters’ intonations and verbal tics.”

“But I find reading through a page of pure ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ dialogue tags unnecessarily bland,” I complained bitterly. “I don’t ‘hear’ unique dialogue. I think adverbs inject a bit of much-needed flavour! I believe that the entire writing community has become unfortunately prejudiced against adverbs. When I submit a piece for review, my online writing colleagues immediately say things like ‘SAY NO TO ADVERBS!’ and ‘GET RID OF ALL YOUR ADVERBS! YOUR WRITING SHOULD STAND BY ITSELF!’”

I leaped to my feet, pacing dramatically. “They are judging my use of adverbs harshly and too zealously! All you hear about in writing courses, articles, treatises, and opinion pieces is that one should avoid adverbs. Adverbs should be judged on how well they support the writing, rather being dismissed out of hand because they are simply and intrinsically adverbs.”

Genevieve and Martin stared at me bemusedly as I finished my rant and enthusiastically slugged down some more wine.

“Perhaps adverbs should be used sparingly,” Martin suggested cautiously. “Not purged entirely from one’s writing, but rather used as flavour, like salt in a stew.”

“Or like bacon in this gluten-free bacon beer,” Genevieve said, swigging down her alcohol satisfactorily.

“I concur,” I said, happily. “I still believe adverbs have a place in writing, and in those places they can be used positively. Now, where’s the rest of that wine?”

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