Good vs bad adverbs

Back in 2018, I did a post on adverbs that I need to expand on.

I talked before about how writers should use adverbs sparingly. But I didn’t talk about good vs bad adverbs.


Bad adverbs are like smiled happily. Or fiercely killed him. Or softly whispered. Readers can already tell she’s happy because she’s smiling. Killing someone is already fierce, and whispering is already soft. These adverbs don’t add much to the story but rather explain what’s going on twice.

Usually, the best way to fix a bad adverb is to upgrade the verb. I murdered him instead of I fiercely killed him. Or I quickly ran becomes I dashed or I sprinted.

I also recommend taking the adverbs out before you read through your work. Sometimes adverbs seem like they’re needed when we’re writing, and we don’t realize how much we don’t need them until they’re gone. Take out the adverbs, wait a few days so you don’t remember where they were, and read over your work. Most likely, you won’t remember where they were, and you’ll have a smoother read.


Good adverbs, on the other hand, are like smiled sadly, gently shoved, or loudly whispered. They contradict each other in a way that gives the words a new meaning. They add something to the story and let the reader see more complex emotions.


Hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Good vs bad adverbs

  1. When I first started writing, right up through the memoir I published, I had a nasty adverb addiction. Then I read Stephen King’s writing book, where he told me what I’d already heard a million times: adverbs are evil. After reading your post I went back to an action-y blog post to look for adverbs. Happy to report that I didn’t find any *ly* adverbs, but I found a few of these like in this example: I think the Americans with Disabilities Act should have me covered *in some fashion*. Is this phrase an adverb, or something else. I think I frequently qualify verbs in this way. Does this fall into bad-adverb category. I think the sentence could live without the phrase, but it might not mean the same thing. Thoughts? Advice? Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard about Stephen King’s writing book, but I haven’t read it before.

      “In some fashion” isn’t an adverb; it’s a phrase. Adverbs are usually just one word long. An easy way to check is to go to hemingwayapp.com and type your sentences in. Adverbs will be highlighted in blue.

      Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

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