Adverb Alternatives

adverb alternatives

As writers, many of us write the way we speak. If you're used to using adverbs to describe things when you're with your friends and family, you're pretty likely to use them when you're telling a story on paper too.


Adverbs aren't inherently incorrect, but oftentimes there are more descriptive words you could use to get the same point across. If your manuscript lacks a certain jazz or is less exciting than you had envisioned, an abundance of -ly adverbs might be to blame.


Let's start with a short lesson on adverbs to help you come up with better word choices where you can.

Adverbs are describing words that modify verbs, adjectives, another adverb, or an entire sentence. For this lesson, we're discussing the adverbs ending in -ly that modify verbs.


Using the example in the graphic, the -ly adverb softly is describing walked. It's easy to imagine that he is walking, and with softly there, we know he's trying not to draw attention to himself.


Rather than having your reader think of him walking, try to be more specific. How is he walking softly? We can get rid of the fluff word so the point is driven stronger.


Take the adverb and the verb it's describing (in our example, walked softly), and replace it with a more distinct verb.

How about tiptoed? To tiptoe is a way to walk softly and implies he's trying not to draw attention to himself.


Little changes like these will reduce the unnecessary fluff in your manuscript. You want your words to keep their power, so fluffing them won't do your story any favors. Everything doesn't need to happen suddenly or instantly.

Don't dilute your story.


Favor powerful verbs over -ly adverbs.

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Here is a list of alternatives to give you a head start!

Adverbs Alternatives
brightly grin, shone, blind, sparkle
closely inspect, stalk, analyze
excitedly exclaim, shout, ramble, rant
gradually fade, emerge, materialize, dwindle
greedily devour, guzzle
heavily gasp, wheeze, saunter
immediately Oftentimes, you can simply eliminate this adverb.
loudly slam, bang, slurp, explode, zing, shout
menacingly glare, scowl, screech
quickly dash, sprint, hustle, blurt
quietly whisper, lurk, skulk, sneak
roughly jab, jostle, grapple, seize
secretly eavesdrop, whisper
sleepily mumble, murmur, hobble, stumble
softly tiptoe, whisper, graze, skim
stupidly gawk, ramble, garble
suddenly Oftentimes, you can simply eliminate this adverb.
utterly decimate, humiliate
violently smash, shatter, yank, crash