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Adverbaholics Anonymous - 12 Step Program to Recovery
by Dian Moore
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Adverbaholics Anonymous Twelve-Step Program

Adverbs. A verb’s worst enemy. Icky words that end in ‘ly.’

Why are adverbs so vile? They make verbs lazy. No one wants a lazy verb in his or her manuscript. Lazy verbs sit on the couch and sap the energy from the story.

Do you use words like lovely, beautifully, calmly, slowly, hurriedly? Could you be addicted to adverbs? Yes. You are addicted to adverbs.

So what do you do? You love adverbs. They are fun to say and make us feel descriptive. Have no fear; Adverbs Anonymous is here.

My name is Writer, and I’m an Adverbaholic. I wrote my first adverb in grade school (be prepared for the gasp from the audience). I was 10 years old. The adverb was “really.” As in, “I really, really like that cutie boy whose eyes are lovely, for a boy.”

Adverbaholics Anonymous Twelve-Steps to Recovery

1. The writer admits she has lost control over her use of adverbs and therefore has lost control over her manuscript.

2. The writer acknowledges a Editor exists that can help her overcome her addiction to adverbs. This is an Editor.

3. The writer chooses to rely on the accumulated knowledge of the Editor and trusts the Editor.

4. The Writer now looks at all past manuscripts and establishes a record of her good AND bad traits. She decides what sort of a writer she feels she is while always affirming her creativity.

5. The writer looks over the list and takes responsibility for all adverbs that weakened her writing and propped up weak verbs. Those unnecessary adverbs are recognized and erased.

6. The writer looks to the Editor and accepts that the Editor can help find stronger verbs.

7. The writer asks for assistance when her use of adverbs weakens her prose.

8. Now the focus turns on how the writer's overuse of adverbs has harmed her manuscripts. The writer makes a list of manuscripts she left weak and injured and details each situation to determine if the damage is real or imagined.

9. The writer goes through the list, one by one, and rewrites each sentence with an active verb. Note that the action should always be in the manuscript’s best interest. If the adverb is necessary to determine degree, such as less or more, then the adverb may stay.

10. With past wrongs remedied, the writer now handles each manuscript one sentence at a time. If she slips up and uses a weak verb that must be dependent on an adverb, she rewrites the sentence and uses a thesaurus to find an active verb.

11. The writer looks to the Editor for guidance each day through either email or mail. The writer seeks help in finding strong nouns, active verbs and comparative phrases to improve the flow and readability of each manuscript.

12. When the writer sees other writers stuck in adverb land, she shows, instead of tells, them, by example, that the adverb addiction can be broken It involves instruction through writing samples and gentle critiques. A writer seeking assistance, critique, or feedback must choose the path of his or her own free will in order for it to work.

Examples of Adverbaholicism:

Symptom: I quietly walked down the hilly parking lot.
Cure: I crept down the steep hill to the parking lot.

Symptom: Angie and Amanda happily skipped along.
Cure: Angie and Amanda squealed and giggled as they skipped along.

Symptom: She angrily threw dishes at his ugly face.
Cure: Catherine pitched dishes at her husband’s mangled face.

(She probably damaged his face with other flying objects at some point in the past, but that’s another story.)

Symptom: Arthur slowly reeled the wildly fighting fish in to the boat.
Cure: Arthur took his time and reeled in the vicious fish.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Nelda Crowley 28 Sep 2005
Wonderful! You sound just like my writing instructor, only happier. I believe you have helped my writing immensely (oops) greatly? (no) I have a ways to go.
Joseph Civitella 28 Sep 2005
Nicely done, Dian! :-))) Very creative, entertaining, and educational. Thank you for the pointers. Where do I sign up for the meetings? J.
Phyllis Inniss 27 Sep 2005
Thanks for the pointers. I don't entirely agree that we should eliminate adverbs (of manner - the ones that generally end in -ly), but I do agree that some are unnecessary.
Japheth Golen 26 Sep 2005
I had once commented on someone using adverbs in their writing on another writing web site. After I had left that message others had followed up and said that they didn't know what I was talking about and that the adverbs were just fine. I'm glad to see this confermation of what I was saying. Thank You!
Deborah Porter  06 Sep 2005
Di, this is fantastic! Oh my! I can REALLY, REALLY see that I need to keep an eye on this (argh! True confessions!) This is a 500 member front page showcase for sure! Keep at eye on the front page at FaithWriters during the week starting 26th September. Love, Deb
26 Aug 2005
Priceless! i'm putting a copy on my computer.
Honey Stone 22 Mar 2005
Very funny. I will take this article into consideration and start step one. I work in a recovery place. I agree with you for the most part, but I as far as what writers say about always having an active voice, I disagree. Diane Glancy (Christian/Native American/German-American) chooses to write in a passive voice and no wonder I like her so much. She knows how to do it though.
Jeremy McNabb 11 Mar 2005
Hmmm...I'm rethinking some of my manuscript's wording now. I've always known that dependence on adverbs is bad, but I've never worked out a solution. Thanks and God bless!


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