Sometimes I wonder if grammatical and punctuation errors will become accepted because their use is so commonplace now that so many people can self-publish on websites, blogs, e-newsletters and more. I hope not. We need to preserve proper grammar in the English language, and I think it’s up to you and me to take this responsibility seriously.

Not only will learning about adverbs help you with grammar, it will improve all of your writing projects. If you follow Stephen King’s advice on writing (and why wouldn’t you?), you will eliminate most, if not all, of your adverbs. An adverb is a word that describes (modifies) a verb (he speaks softly), an adjective (very cute), another adverb (ended too quickly), or even a whole sentence (Fortunately, I had an extra hat).

Adverbs often end in -ly, but some (such as fast) look exactly the same as their adjective counterparts. The word being described determines if the modifier is being used as an adverb or adjective, i.e. adjective: He is a fast runner; adverb: He runs fast. 

King said that the reason someone overuses adverbs is that they are afraid. 

In trying to be clear enough, good enough at getting the point across, the writer uses unnecessary and often awkward descriptive words, i.e., adverbs. 

When I read over what I have written and note my use of adverbs, I take a moment to consider if a stronger or clearer verb is needed rather than an adverb. “She closed the door firmly and loudly” can be improved by finding a better verb and writing, instead, “She slammed the door.” 

In one of King’s examples, he notes that an adverb is often redundant. “Give it back,” he pleaded abjectly, “it’s mine.” When you remove “abjectly,” you still have “pleaded,” and that is enough to express your meaning. 

Sometimes you’ll want to use an adverb and consider it almost part of the word you are modifying. Adjectives (which describe nouns) are often used that way and are hyphenated. An example is “The paper was a two-page mess.” Another example is “He likes the freckled-face girl.” When using an “-ly” adverb, a hyphen is not needed. For example, a “recently released book” should not be written “recently-released book.” “Recently” modifies “released,” so the hyphen is unnecessary. Basically, –ly words used as adverbs don’t get hyphenated because they aren’t modifying the noun.

 Adverbs are not against the law in good writing, but each one should be brought in for questioning, so to speak. 

FAQ: Is the app “Grammarly” a good tool? 

In a word, yes. Just decide if you need the “premium” (not free) version, or not.

As a professional writer and book editor, I know how important clear, accurate, and error-free writing is. Recently, a college professor submitted his manuscript to me and assured me that it was “ready for final formatting and publication.” He was an experienced writer and he’d had a professor friend proofread his work. With a little too much glee, I set about proofing the document to discover grammar and typing mistakes—I “knew” I’d find something, and I did. 

My point is that there is practically no such thing as too much proofreading. So using a tool like Grammarly is one helpful step. 

Warning: it will not weed out your adverbs. Although it is effective at catching certain mistakes, it is not a human editor.  

For example, yesterday I caught an error where the word was spelled correctly (“donuts”), but in context, the sentence was supposed to read “dos and don’ts” —not “dos and donuts.”  

English is a tricky language to write well, and it’s even trickier to proofread.

 Grammarly and human editors are not in direct competition. You don’t need to make a choice between them as they have different uses for different types of writing.

Other grammar checkers with similar features as Grammarly include Ginger ProWritingAid, and WhiteSmoke, but over 10 million people use Grammarly and it can work well as one of your proofing buddies.

Find out how Barbara Dee can help you write and publish your book:

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