Adverbs to Strengthen Your Writing
Adverbs are an essential part of a writer’s toolbox. Although they shouldn’t be overused, they can often convey specific details that other parts of speech cannot. The proper use of adverbs can help your speech or writing stand out. In fact, good use of adverbs will strengthen your writing and make you sound like you’re worth listening to.
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What Is an Adverb?
An adverb is a word used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs are like the seasoning in sentences. They help describe how things appear and how things happen. They help a reader see an action in their mind’s eye.
So, adverbs help you control what others see when you speak or write and are one of the necessary components of good writing. When used correctly, they can add a whole new dimension to your work. Check out how using a strong vs. weak adverb can improve your writing.
What Makes a Strong Adverb
Written words should paint a picture in the reader’s mind, and adverbs help make that happen. Adverbs add oomph to punches and power to kicks. Having a handy list of adverbs to call on will add a degree of energy and spice to your verbiage.
However, not all adverbs are strong. Some adverbs like “really” or “very” aren’t adding to your imagery and could be removed or substituted. You can see this in action by comparing “really” vs. “unbelievably” in a sentence.
- She moved really slowly.
- She moved unbelievably slowly.
While really isn’t telling the reader much about how slow she is, using unbelievably gives you a vivid understanding. It was actually unbelievable. As you can see, choosing your adverbs is important. Now, it’s time to look at a list of adverbs for writing to make it stronger.
Adverbs Modifying Verbs
It’s easy to say that the quick brown fox jumped over a lazy brown dog, but how did he do it? That’s the thing everyone is dying to know.
A strong verb can often stand on its own, but adverbs can strengthen and color verbs to add a sense of verisimilitude to any sentence. When adverbs modify verbs, they describe the way something is happening.
In these examples, the adverb is in bold and the verb in italics:
- Swiftly: Done in a fast way.
The older orangutan swiftly kicked the annoying youngster.
- Grudgingly: Done in a reluctant or unwilling way.
John grudgingly shared his snickerdoodles.
- Staunchly: Done in a strong, firm or loyal way.
Jackson was staunchly opposed to the proposition.
- Thoroughly: Done in a complete way.
Mary was thoroughly annoyed by her poodle’s constant yapping.
- Impatiently: Done in a way that shows irritation or annoyance.
I impatiently tapped my foot as I waited for my toddler to finish getting dressed.
- Briskly: Done in a quick, active, or energetic way.
Mr. Miller briskly explained how to fill out the exam answer sheet, leaving us with 45 minutes to complete the test.
- Ambitiously: Done with the intention of meeting high aspirations.
Donna ambitiously volunteered to organize the food bank’s annual fundraiser.
- Creatively: Done in an original or imaginative way.
Jacob creatively added curly purple hair, green glasses, and red eyes to the puppet he made in art class.
Adverbs Modifying Adjectives
How tired were you? How ugly was it? Readers and audiences beg for the answers to such questions. Adverbs give them those answers, adding more information to an adjective, while lending intensity to writing and speech.
In these examples, the adverb is in bold and the adjective in italics:
- Diametrically: Being at opposite extremes.
His views are diametrically opposed to mine.
- Unusually: Out of the ordinary.
Mary’s dog was unusually hyperactive.
- Brutally: meaning extremely unpleasant
The meeting was brutally dull.
- Extremely: To a great degree; very.
My father works in an extremely tall building, on the 84th floor.
- Surprisingly: Happens unexpectedly
The boy was surprisingly strong.
- Highly: To a high degree or level.
He is a highly intelligent man with the ability to speak six languages.
- Mildly: To a slight extent.
I prefer mildly spicy chili, but my friend only cooks with extra hot chili powder.
- Vividly: Strong or bold appearance; bright.
This vividly colored fabric is perfect for the quilt I want to make.
Adverbs Modifying Other Adverbs
Sometimes, even adverbs need help. When you want to bring attention to a level of rapidity or to a degree of languidness, you need an adverb to describe another adverb. When you want to describe one adverb with another, just put them next to one another.
In these examples the modifying adverb is in bold and the main adverb in italics:
- Incredibly: Unbelievably.
The obtuse man spoke incredibly slowly.
- Abnormally: Out of the realm of normalcy.
Mary’s hyperactive dog barked abnormally often.
- Unexpectedly: Surprisingly.
She arrived for the meeting unexpectedly early.
- Unbelievably: Hard to believe.
She ran unbelievably quickly, setting a new school record for the 100-meter dash.
- Joyfully: With great pleasure
After three days of rain, we spent the day joyfully out at the park.
- Frequently: Often.
Safety is frequently atop the minds of first-time parents who are decorating the baby’s nursery.
- Safely: In a safe manner.
I waited until the baby was safely upstairs in her crib before cooking dinner.
- Quietly: Without noise; quiet manner
She walked quietly behind her brother.
While many adverbs end in the suffix -ly, don’t think that all adverbs end in -ly, or that all words that end in -ly are adverbs. In addition to this list of adverbs to strengthen your writing, you can view and download our PDF list of 100 adverbs below to see lots more commonly used adverbs with and without the -ly ending.
Tips for Using Adverbs
Overuse of adverbs is the mark of an abecedarian writer. When you use adverbs too much, the opposite effect is achieved. Readers become annoyed and bored rather than enthralled or excited.
To make sure that you are using adverbs just enough follow these tricks.
- Use adverbs when they are most needed.
- If the adverb isn’t helping or weak, remove it.
- If the verb or adjective works great without the adverb, remove it.
- Overused adverbs are ‘really’ and ‘very’, make sure they are necessary before adding them.
It’s a Balancing Act
When it comes to adverbs, it’s all about balance. Best Selling American author Stephen King is known for cautioning aspiring writers to use adverbs sparingly. He once compared using adverbs to having dandelions in your yard. One on your lawn looks pretty and unique, but the weeds can easily overtake the lawn if they’re not rooted out.