Editing Adverbs From Your Manuscript

Standard

I was editing my MS recently and realized that many new writers may not know about an easy way to edit out some adverbs. So I decided to explain it here. Many times an adverb ends in –ly, so they are easily spotted.

I also listed many of the adverbs I removed and show the original use as well as a suggestion for the improvement of the sentence. These are only suggestions and may not fit your style, but keep in mind that many editors/agents today do not like adjectives and adverbs. They prefer to see strong verbs instead.

In order to easily see what and where you put many of your adverbs you can highlight them. If you use Microsoft Word, go to Editing, Find. Type ly into the find space and click Reading Highlight then Highlight All. Stand back and wear your sunglasses as your manuscript suddenly lights up like a yellow traffic light. Now start analyzing each adverb. If you choose to delete it, the highlights will disappear, but the box remains up so just click Highlight again and they’re back.

-ly words removed:

quickly

She smiled, finally glancing quickly at his eyes, then away again.

She smiled, glanced at his eyes, then away again.

softly

cooed softly.

cooed.

finally

she finally opened her eyes

she opened her eyes OR

at length she opened her eyes OR

minutes later she opened her eyes

to finally kick the bucket

to kick the bucket

actually

Actually, I wanted to go as well.

I wanted to go, too.

only

We know there are only two of them traveling alone,…

We know there are two of the them traveling alone… OR

We know there are two traveling alone…

Rusty killed only the useless fisherman.

Rusty killed the useless fisherman.

lately

Which one of you had a Pernicon watching her lately?

Which of you had a Pernicon watching her?

suddenly

Suddenly Berith’s eyes lit up.

Berith’s eyes lit up.

really

So I really won’t be missed at school or work much, will I?

So I won’t be missed at school or work much, will I?

I really have to go back now

I have to go back now

He’s super cute and all, but I really like Michael.

He’s super cute and all, but I like Michael.

mostly

She mostly studied the table,

She studied the table,

Then more quietly, almost to herself, “I…

Then almost to herself, “I….

slowly

…turned and slowly stumbled back

…turned and stumbled back

completely

We are not completely sure.

We are not sure.

gravely

Minhtu gravely nodded,…

Minhtu nodded, her eyes serious and face drawn tight around her mouth…

Orig 7 Seraphim

Here’s a glimpse of a page of my MS before editing. Ouch! The highlighting didn’t show up so I’ve put the adverbs in bold and italics.

On the floor, overturned tables and chairs lay scattered across the once majestic hall. Amini, wings spread, fought in hand-to-hand combat, faces sweating and eyes screwed nearly shut in anger, clawed at each other and raked hair and robes trying to gain the advantage. Fortadivine slashed with swords and broadaxes while yelling orders to the Amini and Forzoram who were equally engaged in battle.  The Forzoram took the advantage over the smaller and less trained Amini, easily defeating them and ripping wings or decapitating them with the twist of am armhold. Severed heads lay where they’d been thrown against the walls, glaring with sightless eyes. The room was a din of roars and screams, curses and clanking of weapons.

“Why are you doing this?” a Fortadivine yelled to a fellow Fortadivine who was slashing madly with his sword, trying to sever an arm or artery.

“Because we follow Pravus! He is our leader and when he says fight, we fight!” the second man screamed hysterically above the racket and din.

“But he is wrong! Alska is our leader. Alska is love; Pravus has only hatred in his heart! You will not win if you follow such a beast!” the first Fortadivine delivered, stepping in with a sword thrust that entered the other man’s chest and heart. He pulled his bloody sword free of this rebel and turned in time to parry another attack from a Benedivine who’d found a sword lying on a dead Fortadivine. The Benedivine, used to basic slave-type labor and not trained for military work, was quickly dispatched and left mortally injured. The Fortadivine stepped over the dying, once-holy man and shook his head at the waste and pity of this all.

Overhead, the black dragon beast, Pravus, soared over the dais again and again, shooting gouts of fire at Alska, hoping he would tire and leave a chink in his armor that Pravus would then finish him by.  Red eyes glared in the smoky dust of the demolished room as he circled, checking the progress of the battle. He roared encouragement, “Fight brothers! Kill those bastards who cling to the old ways and

8 responses »

  1. I find it difficult to write without using adjectives and adverbs. My teachers instructed me to describe the scene this way too. Now I must retrain my brain to rely more on my senses and my dictionary.

    Thanks for giving examples!

  2. An easier way to find LY adverbs is to use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. With one press of a button it highlights them just as you decribed for Word. It also lets you know when you’ve got ‘too many’.

    In addition to LY adverbs, the AutoCrit Wizard also finds a lot of other problems like passive writing, too many sentence initial conjunctions, etc, etc. I love the Wizard. It really helps me improve my writing.

  3. Thanks for this (and for listing my blog–I will gladLY reciprocate). With the eye-rolling and red pen strokes surrounding adverbs it makes me often wonder whose idea was it to create the things anyway?

    • As a teacher for many years I encouraged the kids to use descriptive words; lots of adjectives and adverbs to give their writing punch. Now they’re all cursing me…

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