Stephen King voiced his opinion by saying that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” and compares them to weeds on a lawn. In other words it is ok to use them in moderation, but what makes him (and others) so opposed to them? Well, adverbs are considered to be words that have been manufactured to save time. For example:
Basically I immediately went to the shops, seemingly on my way to buy food when I fortunately and suddenly realised that I had somehow completely forgotten my wallet.
Basically rarely adds anything to any sentence. You might hear it used on television, on the street, and used in texts, but stop and ask yourself – what does it mean? If you delete the basically from the sentence above then you lose nothing, and this is the same for most other sentences that use it. Immediately and suddenly are ok under certain circumstances but again you have to ask yourself whether it’s really needed. If you write: “I suddenly shut the door” then how else do you shut a door? Most things happen on the spur of the moment you do them so adding suddenly is, perhaps, a tad obvious (obviously can also be a bad adverb to use depending on the context). Seemingly in the sentence above also does not add anything. You either are on your way to your shops or you aren’t. Seemingly only suggests that you are having an outer-body experience where someone has taken control of your brain and you have no control of where you are going. Completely makes the sentence sound as if you are a surfer from California (not that there is anything wrong with that – said Seinfeld) that might say: “I totally like that film”. This brings me to my next point that it is ok to use adverbs in dialogue. If a character is likely to use the words basically or totally in reality then use them. I don’t have anything against this. Somehow should be avoided at all costs. Take into consideration this sentence: “I was driving to the shops when I somehow crashed into a wall”. The somehow in this sentence has allowed the writer to avoid describing what happened to this driver. Wouldn’t it have been better to describe HOW the driver crashed – was he or she distracted? What was this distraction? How did they lose control?
If you have read this fair into this post then you’ll probably be mistaken that I hate adverbs. I don’t. Just don’t overdo them. There are adverbs that can work well like: “The maniac smiled inanely”. The rule to follow is this: if you can delete an adverb and the sentence still makes sense then leave them deleted forever.
Oh … and that sentence? Here’s how it should read:
I went to the shops to buy food when I realised that I had forgotten my wallet.