Bad Adverbs - Relentlessly

2012-Dec-20 -> from the not-so-four-letter-words department Tags: writing badadverbs 

My dislike of adverbs is no secret. I shamelessly slug away at the little buggers any chance I get. But I thought I would try something different, and perhaps make use of them in a creative way.

My wife and I have a running joke, the "adverb of the day". I'll keep my ears open for more, and write about them as I find them. Bad adverbs is my way of illustrating a point about something that I am seeing increasingly in new writer's work. Particularly in self-published works.

Today's adverb? Relentlessly

The knight relentlessly swung his sword at the dragon, who relentlessly breathed fire in return.

"Avast, vile dragon," the knight said, relentlessly. "Ye just don't know when to quit."

The dragon paused and tapped it's claws on the stone ground relentlessly. "Indeed," the dragon said, in return. "Lay down your sword, or I shall relentlessly turn you to dust."

Okay, that was painful. But you get the idea. Thing is, many writers use this adverb without considering the implications of its meaning.

Relentless: adjective, that does not relent; unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh; unrelenting: a relentless enemy.

"Unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh". Which stands to reason, can something be said, relentlessly? It brings a funny vision to mind, but I've seen it used in this way. A dragon relentlessly breathing fire carries visions of a dragon who simply can't stop, and doesn't want to stop, but in order to speak to the knight, the dragon had to stop. I guess it wasn't so relentless after all?

Yeah, I know, I'm stretching the meaning. But nobody can deny that the above writing would be better if we would only remove the bad adverb.


Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments:


By L.A. Rikand on Fri 21 Dec 2012 09:36:02 am [ Reply ] I'm going to disagree with you by 20%. Using relentlessly once in this passage would be very powerful. Keeping either the first or last would give me a sense that the knight was really strong and persistent, or that the dragon is particularly cruel.

{Notice the adverb?}

By Thomas A. Knight on Fri 21 Dec 2012 09:52:19 am [ Reply ] I know. I'm just making a point, and trying (unsuccessfully) to be funny. :)

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