I’ve heard the advice about using descriptive verbs in the place of adverbs a lot lately. For example:

He ran quickly.

becomes

He sprinted.

and

She gave him the papers angrily.

becomes

She thrust the papers into his chest.

I see the wisdom of this because the language is more concise. A good verb choice can also take on the workload of adverbs in many cases.

I have also heard lately that any of the more descriptive verbs for “said” are gauche, purple prose, amateur, etc.. 

Now, I’ve got to wonder—because the same people who give the former advice to writers are likely to give the latter—why this disparity occurs.

If she ordered or crowed or snickered or murmured, aren’t those words stronger and more descriptive than the vague, albeit utilitarian ”said”? And which advice is right? Which advice should writers take when it comes to dialogue tags—use descriptive verbs or use only “said” and “asked”?

I may not have a point here, but if I do, it’s this: advice from writers about writing is flawed. It pulls from the style and preferences of the writer giving the advice, and is therefore stupendously subjective. A writer can give you advice in one breath that will firmly contradict the advice in his next. 

Beware, my fellow writers, of those stating their opinions as fact, especially if they fail to include why they have that opinion. One writer’s style choice is not and should not and can not be the style choice of another. The words we use may be the same, but the way we choose the wield them is not. 

Please do not give in to what I call “fad advice”—advice which is not so much bad as it is a trendy opinion. Your style is your style, and the only person who should be making judgment calls about your style is you. 

-C


  1. haecceityofanelf reblogged this from meridianrose and added:
    Yes. This was exactly my problem with that Chuck Palahniuk advice going around a while back. I mostly do third person...
  2. meridianrose reblogged this from writeworld and added:
    All of this. “Don’t use adverbs.” Don’t use verbs.” “Don’t write too much dialogue.” It gets ridiculous. Adverbs have...
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