Friday, 2 October 2009

Eliminate Weak Verb-Adverb Combinations

Article by Trent Lorcher 
Adverbs muddle good writing when overused. Writers assume adverb use makes for good writing. They're wrong. Adverbs equal lazy writing.
  • Define adverb and instruct students to copy the definition in their notebook and at the top of their rough drafts, if necessary. An adverb modifies verbs, adjective, or other adverbs. They answer the questions where, when, how, and to what extent. A special kind of adverb, called an intensifier, defines the degree of an adjective or another adverb. Intensifiers always precede the adjective or adverb it modifies (Definitions courtesy of Grammar Usage and Mechanic Book, McDougall Littel, 2007. p. 16). Common examples of intensifiers include very, somewhat, quite, rather. If the overuse of adverbs represent lazy writing, the use of intensifiers represents sleeping in until noon, not showering, sitting on the couch, ordering food to go, and watching TV all day.
  • Instruct students to read their rough drafts and circle, highlight, or underline adverbs and the words they modify. If you are not using this lesson for a specific revision, feel free to cut and paste my horrible introduction and use that as an example of over-adverbatizing.
  • Instruct students to look for intensifiers and words ending in ly, if they are struggling.

It's time to start using strong verbs.
  • Volunteer students to write examples of sentences containing adverbs on the board. Make sure they or you identify what the adverb is modifying. Identifying what is being modified will help students create strong verbs and will make for a more effective word choice lesson plan.
  • Discuss ways to eliminate adverbs by identifying which question the adverb answers.
    • The teacher looked menacingly at the disruptive student (menacingly answers how) becomes The teacher glared at the hooligan.
    • The student was quite pleased with himself (quite is an intensifier) becomes The student was pleased with himself.
    • He foolishly invested in bad real estate becomes He speculated in real estate.
TIP: I'm not suggesting you automatically eliminate all adverbs from your writing. However, each adverb should be viewed suspiciously. Finally, If the adverb can be easily eliminated without dramatically changing the meaning of the passage then it should be immediately removed and carefully scrutinized when revising.

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