Authors Answer 126 – Is It Really Possible to Stop Using Adverbs?

Adverbs are something that people love to use in everyday speech. It’s very popular. But what about in writing? Do we really need to avoid using adverbs? Honestly?

Question 126 – Never use adverbs. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Disagree. I will concur that many writers these days rely far too heavily on adverbs, leaning on them instead of putting the effort into creating more descriptive prose. That said, every form of word has it’s place, and you can’t just discount adverbs all together. “Show, don’t tell,” is what’s often said, and I agree with that for the most part, but sometimes what is necessary for a scene is for the author to tell the reader exactly what’s happening. For example, if the narrating character has been struck blind for some reason, they’re not going to be able to describe the facial expressions or body language of whomever they’re talking to, so saying that someone said something “sadly” is a perfectly reasonable way to go about the scene. As with any writing method, we simply have to avoid abusing adverbs and use them only when they are necessary or work better with a particular sentence.

Gregory S. Close

Never use an adverb stupidly.  (I could not resist).

I don’t believe in absolute rules of writing like “never use an adverb.” However, I do believe that any time you use an adverb you should consider whether you’re expressing what you want in the best way possible.  Adverbs can be a short cut, and short cuts can be awesome in telling your story.  But if you use too many short cuts, it’s a little less awesome.  So, consider adverbs like seasoning – a little can go a long way, if you’re using the correct spice.

Jean Davis

Disagree. Adverbs add flavor when used sparingly.

C E Aylett

Oh dear, not that question again. Why doesn’t anyone ask about the use of adjectives? (Don’t over use them; don’t overstuff a sentence with them before a noun. Certainly don’t list them. That is how pedestrian description comes about.)

Don’t use weak adverbs (really/actually). Use adverbs when they make an impact on the meaning of the verb and twist it into something special/memorable. Make a list of unusual and strong adverbs (unequivocally/knavishly)  and keep them nearby. Slam unusual combinations together (he spoke haphazardly) When revising a piece, think about whether you need the adverbs you have and where you can either delete them or swap a weak one for one of the  more unusual ones on your list to make interesting contrasts.

In saying that, there will always be some adverbs that slip in through the net. As long as they are not overdone, why stress it?

Beth Aman

I would say use adverbs sparingly.  Adverbs tend to slow down the story, and often times they’re redundant.  It’s often better to use a strong verb instead of a weak verb with an adverb.  But there are times adverbs are useful; it’s your job to take them out when they’re not.

Eric Wood

I wouldn’t say “never”. However, I would say use them with care and caution. Be sure the adverb you’re using isn’t redundant. If the verb already states or implies the action then there’s no need to say how it was done. When you start using too many adverbs you get into telling the reader instead of showing the reader.
He ran quickly. The adverb, quickly, is lazy and simply restating what was already said. If the character is running, we already know he’s moving quickly. Instead, you should show how quickly. His legs pumped like the pistons of a racecar as he ran. Sometimes an adverb will be helpful. He lovingly whispered, “Take your clothes off.” This gives us an understanding how he did it. If you substitute the word “menacingly” for “lovingly” you get a completely different scene. There’s a reason a picture is worth a thousands words. It takes more words to show instead of tell, but it will be well worth it.

D. T. Nova

Never is such a strong word. It is good advice to avoid adverbs with vague verbs when a more specific verb would be understood, but that doesn’t mean that averbs are never the best choice.

Cyrus Keith

Never say never. But limit, limit, LIMIT!!! -Ly adverbs can often be a trap leading to lazy, sluggish writing. Why us “walk quickly” when “march” or “pace” not only save space but portray an attitude as well? I try to not use them, but occasionally a need arises where to not use one only leads to verbal acrobatics that scream, “HEY, everybody! He’s trying not to use an -ly adverb here!” But let’s just look at an absurd example.

Mark walked quickly to the dresser. He quickly took the gun and raised it. He pointed it at Steve. “Stop,” he said loudly.

Compare that to
“Mark charged for the dresser. The gun seemed to leap into his hand. Pointing it at Steve, he roared, “Stop!”

H. Anthe Davis

Why do we have adverbs if we’re not allowed to use them?  Use whatever kinds of words you want, however much you want.  Maybe some people will judge you for them, but writing is an artistic pursuit.  Absolutely listen to constructive criticism, but if you can’t abide by the changes suggested, just shrug them off.  There is no roadmap to the perfect story, no bullet-pointed outline that can make something automatically good or bad.  You’re the writer.  Do what feels right to you.

Paul B. Spence

Since it is impossible, I disagree. Everything in moderation is a much better approach.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I totally disagree. See what I did there? Every word in our language has a place, and the same goes for parts of speech. Now, there are plenty of occasions where the adverb/verb combination can be replaced with a more concise verb, but that doesn’t mean that’s the rule all the time.

Jay Dee Archer

I disagree. Adverbs can be incredibly useful when used correctly. As you can see, I already used some adverbs. There are times when adverbs are the most appropriate words to use. Rules like this are heard many times, but you shouldn’t say never. Of course, there are many times when you can use a better verb than a simple verb and modifying adverb. But not always. This would be better advice: It doesn’t matter what part of language it is, use it when appropriate, but don’t avoid it completely.

How about you?

How do you feel about this rule? Is it necessary to avoid anything in writing? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Edmonton Oilers Are Going to the Playoffs!

This may be a bit off topic for this blog, but I just have to mention this. After 11 years of missing the playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers have finally clinched a playoff spot!

The last time they were in the playoffs, they went all the way to the seventh game in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. After that, not a single playoff game. That’s changing this season, though. Thanks to great play from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, and Adam Larsson, the Oilers are a playoff team. They went from one of the worst teams to possibly taking first in the division in only a year. Amazing turnaround.

I have to mention that both McDavid and Draisaitl are among the top 10 players in the league in points, McDavid leading with 89, and Draisaitl having the highest point total with 71 for a German-born player in NHL history. Still 6 games to go! Will McDavid make 30 goals or 100 points? Who knows?

Sorry about the diversion from the usual, but this is a big thing for me, being an Oilers fan. Can’t wait for the playoffs!

Week in Review – March 26, 2017

I feel like I haven’t been able to get as much done recently. And this week is going to be very busy. So, what happened in the last week?

Reading

I’m now at 61% in Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. This week, I’ll have a lot more time to read, since I’ll be on the bus a lot. Expect a lot more done this week.

Writing

Nothing happening.

Videos

Only one video. I only managed one for my main channel. But my science channel is about to have a massive number of videos coming.

Patreon

I’m curious how much will happen in April with Patreon, considering the videos I plan to make. Different than what I’ve done before.

Languages

I didn’t study anything.

The Blog

Just the usual posts, though fewer than normal. But next week will be very interesting!

Studying

Nothing.

The Next Week’s Goals

It wasn’t an exciting week, but I’ll be having an interesting one coming up. I actually recorded three videos last week, but only posted one. I’ll be posting the other two this week, plus the first science video for the A to Z Challenge, which will also be done on this blog. That’s what I’m preparing for. I’m looking forward to it!

How was your week?

Where’s the Science?! The Jay Dee Show 25

So, you may be wondering what happened last night. I was editing a video, but I was so tired, I went to bed. I didn’t post it! I can’t this morning, because I have to go to work in 30 minutes. But I’ll post it later. Just think, an Authors Answer video on a Sunday. Weird.

So, the main channel had a whopping 1 video, while the science channel had nothing. Why? Well, I explained on Patreon why, but I wasn’t liking the weekly science news format. I’d rather make news videos whenever I can, talking about very current news. The A to Z Challenge is coming at the end of this week, as well, so I need to concentrate on videos for that. So, let’s get on with this week’s one video!

Seems there’s a theme. I talked about why I didn’t have many videos on my main channel. I also talked about my plans. Check it out!

And that’s it! I’ll be posting the Authors Answer video later today, I already have a Star Trek Project video done and ready to edit, and I have to get started on the A to Z Challenge videos for the science channel this week. Lots to do!

Got comments? Leave them below!

Authors Answer 125 – Is Short Better?

You know the advice where authors are told they should be as brief as possible? Cut out any unnecessary words. Keep it simple. Everything short. Easy. Yes? No? How did this paragraph sound? We talk about this very topic.

Question 125 – Use short words, sentences, and paragraphs. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Elizabeth Rhodes

Exclusively? No. You need variation in your sentence length, or your writing will sound monotonous.

Paul B. Spence

Only if you are writing for children. I assume my audience to be thinking adults with at least average IQ, probably even educated. If they can’t handle a word like existential or thermodynamic, they aren’t going to understand my stories anyway.

H. Anthe Davis

If this was a law, I would be in jail for life.  I have to consciously control the amount of dashes in my work — lest I end up with six sentences broken up like this one inside a single paragraph.  Semicolons are also my BFFs.  When I edit, I do try to break down some of my impossibly long sentences, especially since I often write them in the rough drafts because I’m still trying to figure out a concept; it’s sometimes possible to replace a whole clause with just a couple words, once I actually get what I’m trying to say.  But as I’ve had few complaints over my endless chains of words, and as I’ve read others’ novels which are just as wordy and tangled as mine, I don’t think the commandment to keep things short should be considered as anything more than a suggestion.  Yes, reread your stuff — out loud if possible — and chop it up where it needs it, but don’t chop it up Just Because.

Cyrus Keith

Agree, depending on the pace you want to keep. You may have a fight sequence. Short words and phrases move the pace quickly, because the action is brisk. Each punch, each kick, each shot, stands on its own. But if you’re waking to a pastoral scene next to a peaceful, meandering river, you want to slow down and relax a bit. Use the flowers, their scent, the taste of the water, the warmth of the summer sun, to lull the readers just a little. Just before you pour gasoline on your characters and set them on fire.

D. T. Nova

You shouldn’t use longer words just to show off your vocabulary, but to avoid them when they do seem more natural to you will come across as dumbing things down.

Sentence length should vary. Having too many long and complex sentences in a row can be hard to follow, but having too many short ones in a row can get monotonous.

Extremely long paragraphs should be used very sparingly, and never without reason.

Eric Wood

If you write children’s books, then yes. Keep it short, simple and easy to understand. If you write YA or for adults then feel free to expand upon the sentences. When short sentences and paragraphs are used too frequently the writing seems choppy and incomplete. To provide the reader with ample detail and imagery longer, more complicated sentence structure will be required. However, when writing a children’s book you need to take care to watch length and vocabulary.

Beth Aman

There’s a place for everything.  You’re a writer; words and sentences are your tools.  They are the building blocks that you use to create worlds and breathe life into characters – you should know how to use them.  Long, rolling sentences take longer to read.  They serve a purpose when used properly; I use them to explain things that take a long time to happen, or need a lot of words for.  They come across as luxurious, like thick carpet.  Short sentences are the opposite: they convey urgency.  They show that things are happening quickly.  I try to use short sentences (and words a paragraphs) for fight scenes and tense moments.  I think the trick to sentence length is this: read a lot, pay attention when you read, and pay attention to your own writing.  Read your writing aloud, get it critiqued, write a lot of things, and eventually it will become second nature.

C E Aylett

No, no and no. Please don’t. Variety is the writers friend. Learn how to use different word and sentence lengths to create effect. Some shorter sentences have a bigger impact if preceded by a long one. And some long sentences can convey wrought emotions better than any fluttering hearts and shallow breaths (read Pride & Prejudice for examples). There has also been a trend to substitute the use of commas for full-stops (periods). This not only creates a lot of fragments in the grammar, it also ruins the fluidity of the prose. Sometimes it works, depending on the voice, and intended style. But generally speaking, if you are not writing a story from a robot’s POV, avoid the stilted narrative and structure your sentences correctly. Except for when they demand you don’t for the purpose of effect. Using too many short sentences can also suggest the author is unable to handle complex sentences and concepts.

In my own writing, I tend to err on the side of short to medium paragraphs (though one paragraph could be one whole single sentence :D). I find white space is a writer’s best friend.

However, no matter what I say, it’s more important the writer finds their own style, what they feel comfortable writing. There’s no point inserting long words you don’t feel confident using, as that will be transparent. If using simpler text works for you then do that. I just finished a brilliant book called Chicago Loop which is an intricate exploration into the mind of a man with sexual psychosis. The vocabulary is not overly demanding but it didn’t stop the author from creating complex layers of character, so it read a lot more densely that it would have in the hands of a less experienced or talented writer.

What I would say all writers should avoid is the use of too many function words. Even with a good story too much <<to have/to be/doing/went/got/looked (my worse faux pas in first drafts)/etc.>> combinations and weak verbs and nouns will make an interesting concept bland.

Jean Davis

Disagree. That sounds like a choppy staccato mess. Variation in word, sentence, and paragraph length help a story flow more naturally and appear visually pleasing on a page.

Gregory S. Close

No.  Short words are not better words.  Short sentences are not better sentences.  Neither are short paragraphs.

Wait…

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Disagree. It all depends on a number of factors. I definitely agree that sometimes a thought can – and should – be written in the simplest, shortest way possible, but sometimes a bit of a ramble is necessary. Complex thoughts require complex words/sentences/paragraphs, and simple ones should be quick and to the point. All in all, any story should use a wide variety of all possibilities. There should be short sentences/paragraphs, and long ones, and the complexity of the word should depend on the point that particular word is trying to get across. Trying to keep everything as short as possible – or alternatively, trying to go the long route – makes a story boring. There needs to be variety, always.

Jay Dee Archer

I disagree, mostly. The length of sentences can affect the pacing of the scene. The length of paragraphs can affect how you read. The length of words can affect how you view the age level. But that’s not all. Ideally, there should be varied length in paragraphs and sentences, as well as words in some cases. If you’re writing an action scene, short sentences can be beneficial. It can make the scene feel more exciting. Shorter words can make you feel like you’re reading a children’s book. Shorter paragraphs can look like you can’t expand on anything. On the other hand, a wall of text can be difficult to read.

Shorter words can dumb it down. Don’t do this. Shorter sentences can be useful for action scenes. Use when appropriate. Shorter paragraphs are more common in dialogue, not narration. It really depends on the conversation. Vary the structure to make it sound more natural. That is important.

How about you?

What do you think? Do you prefer shorter or longer words, sentences, and paragraphs? When is it appropriate for them to be shorter? Let us know in the comments.

What’s the Best Star Trek?

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Star Trek, and I’m currently attempting to go through all of the series and movies. I’m also thinking about getting back into playing Star Trek Online, which I played once about 5 years ago for one night. But I’m not talking about the game, I’m talking about the TV series.

There’s always a debate about what the best series is. Well, in an attempt to be controversial (or not), here is my ranking:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation – This has always been my favourite.
  2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Great storytelling.
  3. Star Trek: The Original Series – Just a lot of fun, even though the acting isn’t always the best.
  4. Star Trek: Enterprise – So much promise for a great series, but it had a few problems. I still enjoyed it a lot.
  5. Star Trek: Voyager – Good idea, but I felt it had the weakest episodes. I still enjoyed it, though.

I’m really wondering where Star Trek: Discovery will fit in.

So, what do you think? How would you rank the series?

Week in Review – March 20, 2017

I’m still getting over my cold, but it’s not as bad as it was a week ago. It was at its worst last Monday and Tuesday. So, how productive was I?

Reading

I had an awful time reading. Just too tired most of the time on the bus. I did read 58% in Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, though.

Writing

Nothing happening.

Videos

This was one area that was slow, thanks to my cold. I had only 2 videos on my main channel. As for my science channel, there was only 1 video, but this was as planned.

Patreon

I’m keeping up to date on this. But so far, nothing has been happening in terms of patrons. I don’t expect that for a while, though.

Languages

I did a bit of French!

The Blog

I felt slow with blogging, as well. March is turning out to be a slow month, but April will be busy. A to Z Blog Challenge is coming up!

Studying

Nothing.

The Next Week’s Goals

This week, I start on making the videos for the A to Z Challenge, and I need to do the research for the blog posts. I also need to prepare for next week. I work a lot more, so I don’t have as much time to record videos. I need to get some done on Wednesday.

How was your week?

I Want to Live in Another World! The Jay Dee Show 24

My video-making continues to be a bit slow, but I’m finding I’m very busy recently, and I have less time to record videos. Plus the fact that with the science videos, editing takes about 2 hours for a short 4 minute video. This includes doing the thumbnails, but doesn’t include searching for images or writing the script. There’s probably about 5 hours of work for a short 4 minute video.

So, here are the past week’s videos. There are 3 of them. I made only 2 for my main channel and 1 for my science channel.

Starting off with my main channel, the first video I posted is my Top 5 Fantasy World video. I talked about the 5 fantasy worlds I love the most.

And then I finally posted my latest Authors Answer video, only 2 weeks late. It’s about writing child and teenage characters.

Moving on to my science channel, since I did a science video last Saturday, there wasn’t one on Monday. So, the only video of the week was the weekly science news video. This one featured some amazing pictures of Pan, Saturn’s small moon, and some political stuff about the EPA.

That’s all for this week! Let me know what you thought of the videos in the comments section below. Over the next week, there should be 2 regular science videos plus a few videos for my main channel I hope to get done, including a Star Trek one, a book review, and Authors Answer. Maybe I’ll finally get back to doing the Japan videos.

Authors Answer 124 – Should You Write With Plain Language?

Harry Potter is filled with British slang. Lord of the Rings is filled with constructed languages. Is it worth doing that? Or should books be written with easy to understand plain language?

Question 124 – Avoid foreign words and regional slang. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m on the fence with this one. On the one hand, using foreign words and regional slang can enhance a character. A foreigner in America, for instance, might let a few words from their primary language slip every now and then to remind the reader that they’re not originally from the book’s main setting. Similarly, certain types of characters would be a lot less believable if you didn’t use certain dialog quirks. A simple example would be that Americans tend to say “soda”, when Canadians tend to say “pop”.

With that in mind, you should definitely carefully consider the types of regional slang you use and whether anyone is going to understand it. For example, I once described a school bus as “the big yellow limo” in a short story, and almost all of the people who read it (online) asked me what on earth a yellow limo was suddenly doing in the scene because they didn’t understand the regional tendency to refer to school buses in that manner.

Gregory S. Close

I think an author should be careful using foreign words and regional slang, but as long as you’re doing it right – go for it!

Jean Davis

Disagree. If we all sounded the same, writing would be pretty boring. There is certainly such a thing as too much when it comes to slang and foreign words, but using them for spice here and there can enhance the story and personality of characters.

C E Aylett

Slang is something that intrigues me no-end. It can say so much about a place, its history, and its people, far more sometimes than the confines of straight English. I’m a massive fan of Irvine Welsh, who writes in Scottish phonetics, and he deliberately wanted to get away from the starchiness of English grammar in his works. I use slang a lot in my own writing, and some foreign words too, if the story requires it. I think the key to using these styles is to make sure the context is clear from the surrounding text or actions within the story.

Beth Aman

Again, depends.  If you’re writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy, it can make or break your story.  My favorite speculative fiction does this well: Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Mortal Instruments, Six of Crows, etc – all these stories have their own worlds with their own words.  The idea is to do it in such a way that feels authentic and also Not-Overwhelming.  Let it come slowly and naturally, and I think it can add a lot to your story.

Eric Wood

I disagree. As writers we need to know that our readers are smarter than we give them credit for. As long as you are using the foreign/slang correctly, the context clues will help the reader figure out the meaning. Just remember to provide the proper context clues. Also, a reader will feel smarter if you allow them this opportunity.

D. T. Nova

They can both be good for establishing setting and for being a part of a character’s voice.

However, if the meaning isn’t obvious from the context, words that aren’t as commonly known should only be used if explaining them is appropriate; or if understanding the word is of secondary importance.

Slang should only be used in dialogue and first-person narration, and it probably is a good idea to avoid slang words that mean different things in different regions.

Cyrus Keith

Disagree. To an extent. They add flavor and spice to your characters. But give them a context so readers can keep up. I have several characters in my books that are either foreign, or speak in a foreign language. I keep it short, use it rarely, and make sure the meaning is implicit in the context. Example, in Unalive, Jenna says to a nurse in Tahiti, “This is critical, Madame … This woman is a very important diplomatic attaché. We must leave for Europe immediately, for her safety. Nous devons partir tout de suite. C’est trés importante.” She finished in French, to make sure she was understood.

H. Anthe Davis

Disagree.  One reason is because of my main genre, fantasy, which has a history of using constructed (imaginary) languages — see Tolkien with Quenya, not to mention all the made-up and tweaked terminology that any story that deals with magic, monsters, et cetera has to get into.  I have several of my own conlangs, and while I try not to use them too much, conlang linguistics is important to the story in places.  Likewise, I think that in things like literary fiction, the use of foreign words or regional slang can be very evocative of place, time, et cetera, and possibly necessary to works translated from a foreign language, where there might be no real equivalent of the desired concept in the translated-to language.  I mean, who would strike deja vu from a manuscript just because it’s not English?  (Pardon my lack of accent marks etc.)

Paul B. Spence

Unless you need to use it. Not everything translates well into English. Ennui, for example. Conveys far more in one word than you can express in a paragraph. I don’t even like French, and I like this word.

Elizabeth Rhodes

This is a rule? It’s news to me. I don’t agree with it in any case. Regional/foreign words are great for establishing that sense of place or filling out a character by giving them an origin. And do we really want all characters to sound the same?

There are also connotations and emotions conveyed much well with regional slang or the dreaded profanity. I dare anyone to put together a string of words that have the same impact as a well-placed “Fuck!”

Jay Dee Archer

Totally disagree. I’m fascinated by languages, and I find that foreign words and slang bring a lot of flavour to a book. If it takes place in the southern US, I want to see some southern slang. If it’s fantasy, and there’s a culture with another language, I want to see some of that language. Of course, it shouldn’t be overdone to the point where you can’t understand what’s going on. But when it’s done right, it makes it quite a bit more interesting. Although it’s not literature, I’m very interested in learning the Klingon language. But I’d also like to learn Quenya.

Another thing about slang is that it can provide you with a clue about when and where the story takes place. Slang evolves over time, and when used in the correct context, it can make the story feel much more authentic.

How about you?

Do you think slang and foreign languages should be used in literature? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

My Daughter’s St. Patrick’s Day Project

Tomorrow, my daughter has a project due for her kindergarten class.  It’s a Leprechaun trap. And this is what we made together.

She did a lot of the colouring herself. The rainbow is hers, as well. Those yellow circles are gold coins. You see, a Leprechaun climbs the ladder, follows the coins, sees a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and falls through a trap door.

It’s not a masterpiece, but she loved making it with me. I even found her keeping it near herself while she watched My Little Pony on Netflix. She was protecting it. She’s pretty proud of it. When it was time for bed, she wanted to take it up to her room, but she’d just be distracted by it.

Tomorrow morning, I just have to remember to dress her in green.