Descriptive Verbs

Using descriptive verbs instead of -ly words.

-ly words (in this context) are adverbs, and their job is to modify verbs.
-ly words are considered Bad.

Why are they Bad, you ask? They are considered cheating, too easy a solution; they allow a writer to get by with a minimum of effort.

Take these simple examples:

He walked quickly across the room.
He walked quietly across the room.
He walked slowly across the room.

What do we know about the man from these sentences? Right. Nothing.

But compare these more descriptive verbs. Each one tells us something about the man:

He stomped across the room. Temper, temper!
He tiptoed across the room. Shh!
He strode across the room. Yes, sir!
He stormed across the room. Yikes!
He staggered across the room. One too many, maybe?
He minced across the room. o.O

I know some writers that brag they do not have a single -ly word in their stories. Personally, I use them when I feel they are truly needed, and try to excise them otherwise.

One bit of advice. Don’t use this technique with attributions. Why, you ask? That’s coming up next time.

originally published in The Sword Review 2005-12-04

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