Adverb! – That’s Not What’s Happening

“I could drink a case of you, darling, and I would still be on my feet.”James Blake, A Case of You

I can’t find the reference this morning but there’s a conversation between Elmore Leonard and an interviewer about when Mr. Leonard’s writing got good. I’m paraphrasing, but Leonard said, “When I went back and took all the adverbs out.”

Leonard has said as much before in his rules for writers and other places but they don’t crackle like that conversation.

I’ve come back to that piece of advice as I’ve gotten back to writing. Adverbs have their place but when I read previous work of mine (not yet available here but still accessible here), I can see that that part of speech is a crutch. I throw a word with an -ly on the end into a sentence when I’m not confident in it. When I don’t believe I’ve gotten my point across.

It’s a cheat. A hedged bet. Most often, I use adverbs to soften my statements. To give myself a way out.

So, at least for the next little while, I’m giving up on those tricky modifiers and qualifiers.

I will say what I mean. And it will pop with confidence and certainty. I will allow my words to stand on their own and defend them when challenged.

I won’t hide behind weak expression in order to save face later.

That’s not the man I am anymore.

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