Saturday, 6 October 2012


Louise walked quickly across the bumpy ground, breathing heavily. There were voices shouting loudly in the distance and she tried to walk as quietly as she could towards them. The air was eerily calm, not even the annoyingly loud crowing of a raven breaking the ridiculously peaceful air. Louise came to a clearing and carefully stepped over a tree root. There they were. The filthy cannibals, all screaming and chanting, already starting the fire. Louise took another step forward and accidentally snapped a twig, nearly falling into the fire. She glanced up hurriedly and stared into the glinting eyes of the ravenously hungry people around her. The chanting had stopped.

She had been captured by the Adverb Tribe.

Count the number of adverbs in the passage above. Most of you here will say 11, when in fact there are 14. The reason most of you will get this wrong is that, although we are told time and time again that adverbs show how something is done, the definition is wrong. Sorry, English teachers. But adverbs can range from carefully, nowhere, never and later. It's confusing, which is why today, I'm going to a) save you from the Adverb Tribe and b) teach you a bit about adverbs.

Adverbs, as I've already said, come in all shapes and sizes, with different definitions floating around for each type. But the broad description of an adverb is a word that modifies a part of speech. Despite what we are always told, it doesn't have to be a verb. 

Verb Adverbs
We'll start with the one most people now - the verb adverb. You know the type - seedy, hanging around in bars and grabbing onto an verb they can find with their greasy, slimy hands. I hate those adverbs. In my opinion, they make writing seem cheap. If you have to use an adverb to describe how a character acts, then you aren't very good at showing (For showing and telling, see my post HERE) However, there are some times when you can to use them. As a general rule, I use about 1 adverb per 1000 words. 

But anyway - examples:

Bob ran quickly. (Not needed - running implies quickness)
"I want out of here," Jill said angrily. (If you are good at showing, you should be able to suggest that Jill is angry in previous paragraphs. Or you could use dialogue tags)

Place Adverbs
These are the adverbs that describe where something happen - here, there, abroad, downstairs, somewhere. You know the type. They don't look like adverb, but they are. These can be given some slack, becuase if you don't use them, your writing will be more confusing. Most of these adverbs are also prepositions.

'Why' Adverbs
These describe why something happens (they're also called adverbs of purpose). Words like so, in order to, purposefully, incidentally, accidentally and because are all adverbs of purpose. These are harder to spot, and again, it's fine to use them. It's really just verb adverbs I detest.

Frequency Adverbs
Pretty straightforward - these describe how often something happened. So words like sometimes, never, every, seldom and sometimes are adverbs that fit under this incantatory.

And finally,

Time Adverbs
These show you when something took place - after, already, yesterday, soon, tomorrow etc. 

And that's that. Have a look over the passage above again, and you should see more adverbs than you did the last time. It's quite amazing how many times we use adverbs, and we don't even know we're doing it!
I hope you enjoyed this post, and it wasn't too confusing. I only learned this about two weeks ago, and it's taken me that long to wrap my head around it, but perhaps you'll do better. 


Cat said...

This was actually really (like reeeeaaally) helpful! Thanks ^_^ xx

Rose said...

There speaks a true Grammar Nazi. Thanks, Jenni, for enlightening us. I get SO CONFUSED with stupid adverbs, and i am even more so now. Poo. But! I have favourited the page, so i can come back to it when i am unsure, or when i'm writing (:

Rose said...

Also, I am amazingly stupid, just to clarify.