The best-selling author Stephen King hates adverbs and advises writers not to use them:
The adverb is not your friend. Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.
I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.
First, King writes fiction, and I focus on legal writing, but still, plenty of lawyers have quoted King on adverbs. Second, all the highlighted words in those quotations are adverbs. (But maybe King was being facetious with the green words?)
And third, on just the first page of one of his short stories, King used 10 adverbs:
- flat (as in “it fell flat”)
What should we make of this? That people exaggerate? That people often ignore their own advice? That people offer advice that applies to others but not to themselves? That advising against adverbs is common writing advice, so people spout it without really thinking?