Created By: Folamh3 on December 1, 2011 Last Edited By: Folamh3 on November 11, 2012
Nuked

Adverb Abuse

In which the author uses adverbs (typically with dialogue) in a clumsy or superfluous fashion

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Trope
"I love you, all right?" he said jokingly is miles away from "I love you, all right?" he said coldly. But avoid at all costs "I love you, all right?" he said lovingly.

"Just as adjectives describe a noun in further detail than the noun itself ('the black dog' as opposed to 'the dog'), adverbs describe an action in greater detail than the action itself ('he crept' as opposed to 'he crept quietly')," Bob said expositorily. "They can also take the noun form and achieve the same effect ('vehemently' versus 'with great vehemence'). These can be very useful when describing certain kinds of physical action, and in this context generally pass without comment, unless used very clumsily," he said knowingly. "However, when used to describe dialogue," he said, forebodingly, "they are often seen as a hallmark of Purple Prose and Bad Writing in general."

"Why is this the case?" he asked rhetorically. "Well, they are typically understood as a refuge for lazy writers," he said, informatively. "Rather than indicating how a piece of dialogue was spoken via body language, scene-setting or the content of the dialogue itself, the lazy writer simply drops in a blunt, unequivocal adverb directly after the line in question, perhaps fearful that his or her readers will not be observant to notice any of the more subtle aforementioned techniques," he said helpfully.

"As with all tropes, however," he reluctantly admitted, "this one can be used to good effect. Typically this is when the adverb indicates a manner of speaking which is incongruous with the apparent surface meaning of the dialogue itself ("'My mother just died,' he said gleefully")," he said, amusedly. "However, in negative examples, the use of the adverb just comes across as lazy and unimaginative. In the absolute worst cases, the adverb may be grossly inappropriate to the context of the dialogue," he said, murderously, "or its inclusion tells the reader absolutely nothing more than they would have known had the adverb been excluded ("'I feel sad," she said glumly.")," he explained explanatorily.

"Curiously," he said, curiously, "the use of adverbs in dialogue is much more of a no-no in screenplays than in prose. While in the latter case their use usually comes across as simply lazy or pointless," he said regretfully, "in the former case the screenwriter is actively stepping on the toes of the people who get the last word on how a line of dialogue is to be delivered - namely, the actors and the director."

"This is a Sister Trope to Said Bookism; both tropes occur for very similar reasons," he said snidely. "If one encounters a writer making frequent use of both, you can be reasonably confident you're looking at a very poor writer (or at least an extremely inexperienced one). Tom Swifty is very closely related. It is (usually) a subtrope of Purple Prose and Bad Writing. It is also related to Delusions of Eloquence and Author Vocabulary Calendar," he finished, concludingly.

Examples:

Literature

  • A common criticism of J. K. Rowling's writing style; Stephen King once quipped that Rowling "never met an adverb she didn't like!"
  • How NOT to Write a Novel strongly discourages the use of adverbs (with the caveat noted above).
  • Stephen King's own guide to writing, On Writing, discourages the use of all dialogue adverbs.
  • My Immortal, a repeat offender, features examples like 'I jumped sexily in front of him.' This would be an example of how not to use adverbs when describing actions.
  • The Turkey City Lexicon notes this, referring to it as "The Tom Swifty: An unseemly compulsion to follow the word “said” with a colorful adverb, as in ‘We’d better hurry,’ Tom said swiftly."
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • December 1, 2011
    cityofmist
    My Immortal has something like 'I jumped sexily in front of him.'
  • December 1, 2011
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Don't know if we have it, but I don't think we need it. Based on the examples gathered so far, it looks like this will only lead to Complaining About Writers/Writing You Don't Like.
  • December 1, 2011
    Jhimmibhob
    Not sure that this fills any niche that Purple Prose doesn't already. If it DOES get used, I suggest rolling adjectives, adverbs, and other descriptors together into "Modifier Abuse."
  • December 1, 2011
    Folamh3
    Well, we already have a trope for Said Bookism which seems to be populated almost exclusively by negative examples.
  • December 2, 2011
    surgoshan
  • December 2, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    '"Curiously" he said curiously'

    • snerk*
  • February 6, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I'm pretty sure we could do a Self Demonstrating Article without having to write it like in-character dialogue.
  • February 6, 2012
    Folamh3
    Stratadrake, again, I was modelling it on the trope description for Said Bookism.
  • February 6, 2012
    Duncan
    A Tom Swifty is actually a subtrope of this, done intentionally, where the adjective is a pun on the content of the sentence.
  • February 6, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ I know, but still.
  • August 25, 2012
    surgoshan
    This would definitely be a YMMV trope.
  • August 25, 2012
    Folamh3
    @surgoshan You think? Said Bookism is more or less a sister trope of this, and it's not YMMV.
  • August 25, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "Thing done badly" is not a trope. Is there something meaningful buried in here?

    Also, "this other thing is also bad" (Said Bookism) is not a point in favor of the first thing. Anyway, consider that while its examples are negative/subjective (and should therefore probably be cleaned up...) there is the fundamental difference that the actual criteria for the trope are objective: in dialogue, author uses verbs besides "said".
  • August 25, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Not too fond of the self demonstrating article. Eddie and mods have stated that they are only good if they don't make it hard to get information about the title. But doing a Describe Topic Here line would work great.
  • November 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Motion to discard.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=l9p6ql7d5jkryr5vchnhxg52&trope=DiscardedYKTTW