I hate adjectives and adverbs. Those are the words that come before or after a verb and end in the letters “ly.” Example: “I literally cringed embarrassingly.” Better: “I cringed.” What makes me absolutely and positively cringe uncontrollably is the overly excessive use of adjectives and adverbs wantonly. It’s totally, irrevocably, and mind-numbingly bad writing. Or, it’s awful.
Why? Words that end in “ly” rob the verb — and the language overall — of its power, it’s zest, it’s energy. Lots of adjectives and adverbs make the reader yawn and then go away. A verb’s mission is to convey action, which helps keep the reader engaged. But each “ly” word weighs down the verb and the sentence. Too many and the language flops — and your reader stops. And there goes your opportunity to engage, explain, interest, persuade, or motivate.
In an earlier post I recommended the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. Here’s something he wrote about “ly” words:
“Totally flabbergasted,” “effortlessly easy,” “slightly spartan.” The beauty of “flabbergasted” is that it implies an astonishment that is total; I can’t picture anyone being partly flabbergasted. If an action is so easy as to be effortless, use “effortless.” And what is “slightly spartan”? Perhaps a monk’s cell with wall-to-wall carpeting.”
So, after writing your first draft hunt down and destroy all the “ly” words you can. Your second draft will gather power to pull and please your readers.