Friday, March 8, 2019

Adverbs and Cliches Are Not Evil

I like cliches and adverbs.  There, I said it.  Whew.  Feels good getting that off my chest*.

Like anything else, they should be used with a light hand*.  Like salt on your food.  Sprinkle a little here and there to add flavor, but don't overdo it.  Cutting them out entirely?  To me, it makes things bland.

Now, if you're a writer, I'm sure you've heard you should never ever use adverbs.  Personally, I think eschewing an entire part of speech is silly.  I mean, they - whoever 'they' are - also tell you to be concise, right?  So, if the most concise way to get your thought across involves using an adverb, why would you use a more words?  Sometimes using a non-adverb phrase to mean the same thing as an adverb is being unnecessarily wordy.   Or to take the adverb out of that sentence... Being wordy when you don't have to be wordy.  Seven words to take the place of one.  See what I mean?

Yes, yes, AWE catches some of my more five-dollar* adverbs.  Lest we forget the 'peremptorily' debacle.  It's a word.  It fit there.  But it was too precious for what I was writing.  Unfortunately, I have this thing where, of all the words in my head, the precious ones pop out through my fingers when I can't think of the more normal one.  (Take 'eschewing' up there as an example.)

As for cliches, well, they're a known quantity.  If I say 'beggars can't be choosers', the reader knows exactly what I mean.  Sometimes I switch that one up a little - 'beggars can't afford to be picky'.  The reader still gets it, but it's not as cliche.  Taking a known cliche and switching it too much, though, can be kind of jarring to the reader.  I wish I could remember the example I ran across the other day where someone used a reworded cliche.  All I could think of was the cliche in its original form and how the rewording was just wrong.

For the most part, my writing style is conversational.  (Which is why peremptorily was so not right.)  Normal people, in conversation, use a lot of cliches.  They use cliches like they're going out of style*.  :smirk:  Changing that up too much would ruin the conversational aspect.  Everyday people aren't running around trying to think of ways to reword cliches.

Jus' sayin'.

And, of course, this is just my opinion.  As always, use whatever bits of the language that get your point across.  As long as the story doesn't suffer.  And your editor doesn't want to come after you with a butcher knife.  ;o)

* all cliches and all but the last inserted unintentionally - because that's how I write.


  1. I wrote a scene with two vampires talking. One says (after realizing his job wasn't going to be so easy), "I thought it would be a piece of cake." Yeah, a cliché, but in dialogue, so it's okay, right? But then I had the other say, "Actually, it is a piece of cake. I can't keep that shit down." I love it when I come up with stuff like that!

    But yeah, clichés can be dangerous if not used sparingly. I notice it in some of the newbie author books I've been reading. It really is a short cut and doesn't make the story all that unique.

  2. I like the occasional cliche, but I have to be careful with them. I mean, "faster than a rocket" simply can't be used in a Georgian-type society.

    Adverbs are needed. I've always considered the advice to cut them all out to be silly. My rule is: don't string two or four in a row, unless your character talks that way.

    Um, precious words. I'm fond of them. Sometimes they're the perfect word for the situation! But when I consider the POV character, I often have to change them. Sigh. Only Viper talks that way. (Well, so do I, but I try to edit them out before they leave my mouth or my fingers.)

  3. I'm married to an attorney. "Premptorily" oftens enters our conversations. Just sayin'... ;)

    I, too, use adverbs because they are a part of speech for a reason! As for cliches, I have characters who use cliches as stock in trade. Whe I get into trouble is finding similes and metaphors that haven't been done to death. LOL