It’s not like I’ve never accidentally used an adverb. But I try to consciously – albeit sporadically – avoid them.

Did you spot three adverbs in that last paragraph? If not, it might be time to refresh your knowledge. Or time to closely examine (whoops! adverb alert again!) your prose to see if adverbs are enhancing or muffling your voice.

The use of “closely” to modify “examine” in the paragraph above is a terrific example of ill-advised adverb use. Did I really need to suggest a close examination? Doesn’t “examine” already mean to look “closely?”

Here’s a link to a favorite piece by Colin Dickey, posted on Slate.  He shares the pro- and con-adverb opinions espoused by authors who know something about writing – from Henry James to Stephen King – and offers his own perspective.

He writes, “Reader, I want to waste your time. Needlessly, deliriously, unrepentantly.”

I admit that I’m a grammar geek who is easily entertained by talk of language and writing, so I don’t feel cheated of precious time by Dickey’s words. Instead, I am entertained. You may be too.

Yet my writing advice of the day is to do an occasional adverb review. It can’t hurt. And it may improve your work. Vastly, hugely, inestimably.

Photo Credit: Ilya Ilyukhin

I lead writing workshops in the Bay Area, and spend much of my so-called free time writing. To support my avocation (and my family) I sell residential real estate in San Francisco; for more about that visit RealEstateTherapy.org or CynthiaCummins.com.