Let me start out by saying that I don’t believe in any “rules” of writing. I believe in “tools” and a “toolbox.” I think that knowing the “tools” makes you a better writer, that way when you don’t use the “tool” you can say you did it on purpose. That it was your stylistic preference. And if they say it’s a “rule” and you have to follow it you can tell them…. to. Mind. Their. Own. Writing. I wasn’t going to swear. Anyway…
Recently I have been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s book, “Steering the Craft.” (If you haven’t seen it or heard of it you can pick it up on amazon for less than $15 USD.) I highly recommend adding it to your writers toolbox.
I found something she said in chapter five to be true. I mean it cut my soul like a cat scratching my nose, in that it hurt when I read it and continued to bother me for several days. Leaving me embarrassed to be seen. As I realized that the way that I have been writing is kind of lazy and I need to step up my act. But I think she’s right and I would like to talk about it.
“Adjectives and adverbs are rich and good and nourishing. They add color, life, immediacy. They cause obesity in prose only when used lazily or overused.” (Le Guin, 41)Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft.
How funny is she? Come on, she gave us her opinion in a fun and new way. Something that was refreshing to see.
“When the quality that the adverb indicates can be put in the verb itself (they ran quickly + they raced) or the quality the adjective indicates can be put in the noun itself (a growling voice = a growl), the prose will be cleaner, more intense, more vivid.” (Le Guin, 41)Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft.
Here in she provides an example of what she’s talking about. And you know what I kind of agree with her. Okay, I agree with her a lot. To me, they raced sounds much better than they ran quickly. It sounds like a paper cut where as the first one sounds like something I would write. 🤣
“Those of us who were brought up to be unaggressive in conversation are liable to use qualifiers — adjectives and adverbs such as rather, a little, which soften or weaken the words they modify. In conversation they’re OK; in written prose they’re bloodsuckers — ticks. You have to dig them out right away. The ticks I myself am plagued by are kind of, sort of, and just — and always, always very. You might just kind of take a little look at your own writing to see if you might have some very favorite qualifiers that you kind of, like, use just a little too often.” (Le Guin, 41-42)Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft.
After reading this I had to take a time out and think. I do use them. Mine are just, very, and like (as you can tell I used it like two or three times in this post alone). I probably have a lot more that I’m not aware of, yet.
For me I will now be staying away from the “ly” adverbs and attempting to stay away from my qualifiers. Thank you Ursula K. Le Guin for adding to my toolbox.
Please comment and share your thoughts with me. I would love to hear what everyone thinks on the subject.