Now for those pesky adverbs. You know, those words that add emphasis but really tell you nothing? “I jumped really high!” How high is that, exactly? “The weather is very unusual.” I still don’t know how to pack!

Adverbs can modify adjectives (high and unusual) as in the two examples above; adverbs can also modify verbs, as in “The driver ahead of me drove slowly”; or they can modify other adverbs, “The driver ahead of me drove exasperatingly slowly.” If used too often and unnecessarily, adverbs can be considered “propaganda” for selling the writer’s point–Boring!  

My advice: Be specific. “I jumped over the three-foot fence.” “The weather is in the mid-nineties.”

Remedy? When I complete a written piece, I scan for “very,” really,” “just,” “that,” “even,” and “ly-ending” words (also known as “fillers”) and ask myself if they are necessary. Then I delete the ones that are not—but perhaps not all of them! For example, I would keep “exasperatingly” above. We’ve all been behind that driver, right?

So be aware of those pesky adverbs as you read. Did the writer use the right amount of adverbs in your opinion or too many? Which ones would you add? or delete? And especially be cautious of them in your own writing.        

One more reminder as you write: Memoirists discover things. Whether childhood trauma, broken relationships, or profound joys, the mere act of writing, proofreading, revising, and editing may bring clarity and closure to you. Many people I’ve talked to have said that they don’t remember an event like some else. And that’s true. If you ask two people about one event, you’re likely to get two different stories. It’s a human nature think. We see and hear things through our own filters, and no two filters are alike. Memoirs are not hard facts; they honest memories. So keep that in mind as you write your memoirs, your life stories. Tell it as you saw it and write away!

Next week…verbs.