The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
-- Stephen King
What is it with adverbs anyway? Why all the fuss? Adverbs are a sign of weak writing, they say. And believe me, "they" say a lot of things on the topic of writing.
Adverbs modify a verb, adjective or other adverb. So the lesson goes, if you need to further describe a verb, adjective or - *gasps* - another adverb, then you're not using a good enough verb or adjective in the first place. They are writers' ketchup, the all purpose means of masking a substandard meal. Good steak doesn't need ketchup, and even a phenomenal burger tastes great even without the red stuff.
The notion that adverbs show a lack of effort is fully ingrained in my head now, whether I agree with it or not. For many of us, trying to avoid adverbs while writing a first draft is a challenge, and often brings out our Evil Inner Editor. Sometimes an adverb is the first thing that pops into your head, and if you're still in your first draft (and you do revise), what's wrong with decorating a verb so you can get on to the next sentence? You can fix it up later, right?
Consider a certain SM Blooding, a.k.a. my buddy Frankie. She is one my favorite writer friends, and is an incredibly prolific writer. We critique each other's work, although she does way more for me than me for her. One of the first occasions a critiqued one of her chapters, I didn't really know her that well. And I pointed out all the adverbs, because that's one of the many things we do. Her response took me aback. In her opinion, adverbs were part of the English language and were therefore at her disposal. This was such a rock star reaction, and perfect for her. I should add that Frankie's books are not exactly rife with adverbs.
Speaking of "rife with adverbs"... Harry Potter - all seven books - seriously rife. Stephen King reviewed a couple of the Harry Potter books, at least one of which appeared in the New York Times. He adores the Harry Potter books, but he has complained about the adverb count. I've noticed more English writers using adverbs liberally, and had one such writer tell me that English writers as a whole use adverbs like condiments.
While the anti-adverb movement was trying to brainwash me, I had begun reading Philip Pullman, specifically His Darker Materials. The adverbs jumped off the page at me, slapping themselves in the chest and shouting, "Look at me, I say!" It was so distracting. I eventually started over, this time trying with all my might to ignore the devilish "-ly" words.
When I write, I'm cognizant of the adverbs I put in. In first draft, only the ones I cannot immediately think of an alternative for, or I am unable to drop outright, make it onto the page. On the whole, I don't think there's anything wrong with the occasional adverb. Anything in moderation, right? I have one exception, though.
"I hate you!" she shouted angrily.
Adverbs decorating dialog tags. The example above is so obvious in its badness that I won't even comment. I avoid these suckers like a blast-ended skrewt fed on a diet of chili.I think the rewrite below is an example of avoiding the accursed adverb-decorating-dialog-tag, but also illustrates "showing" something without using an adverb to do so.
She glared at him, her fists balled at her side. "I hate you!"
I allow myself one exception to the adverb/dialog tag thing. We're told to avoid fluffy dialog tags. Stick with said, replied, and asked. Otherwise, you run the risk of making the reader blink. Worse, you might use a tag that's not an actual act of speaking, which is what dialog is all about. I'll sometimes employ an adverb for a subtle description of the speaker's tone of voice.
"I hate him," she said softly.
She's not whispering. Oh, there's still ways to accomplish the above even without the adverb, but you get my drift?
So, what are your adverb rules? Where do you think it's okay/not okay to use them?