What I’ve learned: -ly adjectives

Even though I have released seven books on the Kindle to date, and I’ve written countless more stories that will never see the light of day, I’m still learning about writing. Writing is a never ending process because you never stop learning. Even if one has all the technical and grammar rules mastered there’s always more to learn about characterization and plotting the plot.

Recently I learned the lie of -ly adjectives. Bluntly put, when writing a book about 75% of -ly adjectives/words are unnecessary. What the heck is a -ly adjective? Exactly what it sounds like, an adjective that ends with ly. Here are a few examples: Quietly, quickly, softly, gently, angrily, sadly, and jumpily. Those sound like words that are fantastic and need to be included, right? Wrong! These -ly adjectives usually occur when paired with a verb, in example: quietly whispered and quickly ran.

Think about quietly whispered for a moment. Is it really necessary to say you quietly whispered? Wouldn’t it automatically be assumed you’re quiet because otherwise you wouldn’t be whispering? The same goes for quickly ran, if you’re running wouldn’t it be obvious that you’re being quick about it? The -ly adjectives are unnecessary because the verb already gives you an idea about the action and how it should be played out.

As a side note suddenly is a ly word that gets over used a lot. “Suddenly the bear walked out of the woods.” It describes that the bear arrived all of a sudden, which is OK. However, the sentence would be a lot more remarkable if you used a stronger verb to describe that instead of the word suddenly.

Please note that I said about 75% of the -ly adjectives/words are unnecessary. You’re going to run into -ly words that are necessary. The idea behind this writing trick is that you watch for words that aren’t needed because the verb already describes it accurately. Some words, like accurately for instance, are going to be necessary because they change the idea of the verb. (ie: Accurately shot as opposed to inaccurately shot)

If you’re writing and you find you have a lot of -ly words that are necessary don’t stress out about it. I have often discovered that people make up a lot of writing rules. There are so many rules, in fact, that they often cancel each other out. Personally, I learned that it’s best to take these writing “rules” as tips, so I watch for them but I also don’t hesitate to break them.

That’s it for today, Champions. I’ll see you Monday!

One comment on “What I’ve learned: -ly adjectives

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