Friday, April 8, 2011

The dreaded LY and the next generation writers: Pet Peeve words of the month...

As a writer and an editor, I've had a lot of years honing and polishing my craft. I've learned to take the knocks like any other writer, and learned to listen when editors, fellow writers, editors, and fellow grammarians offer advice on how to improve that craft.

That's why it amazes me that so many of the books today that we pick up, we seek clunky and rough adverbs that, had the writer and editor taken notice of, would have made the book or story a better read. Mass market media is publishing sub par fiction at a rapid pace, but is it doing the literary movement and its sub-genres any good? Currently, I'm on the fence on this.

In the positive, there are more writers on the market than there have been, so new talent is just waiting to be discovered. There are a lot of great up and coming writers out there, so in this instance it helps propel them into the mainstream.

On the negative side, most of the stories and books that I've come across and that are submitted to us contain too many of these clunky and rough adverbs to make the read readable, much less enjoyable. When I spend a full minute tripping over a clunky sentence, I've lost interest and attention in the story.

Some recent offenders I've found from Bantam, Doubleday, Spectrum, and St. Martin's Press:(spellings are as printed in the text)

Gentlily (Not gently. Gentelily. Gently I can live with, but not the other word.)
Annoyedly (Not annoyingly, which would have been a slight improvement, but a past tensed adverb. Those are the worst.)

Straight Facedly

....Now some of these aren't as bad offenders as others. I don't mind deftly, blankly, or madly. They aren't great, but there are times in creating your prose that you can't avoid the adverbs. But certainly not prettily, straight-facedly, or gentleily. Especially not the last. Prettily is a favorite of Poppy Z. Brite, and can be found strewn through Lovecraft. But it makes for a clunky read.

Example: "They sat in resturants that were prettily decorated."
Too clunky, and unpolished. A better rewrite:
"They sat in elegant resturatnts."

Its a pet peeve of these editors, and its a sad phase that I see as a continous hallmark of the up and coming writer. In fifty years from now, I feel that its going to be a sad trait among when fellow generations of readers and writers look back on literary works of today, and find it paved with bad adverbs.

1 comment:

  1. Sad but true. words will pass with the Baby Boomers...all in good time and no one will be left to remember the "good" words of time.

    Cairol Dawson