Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Literary Liposuction: Part Two

Part Two of Literary Liposuction deals with Adverbs and Prepositional Phrases - those things that worm their way into your work in the first draft.


Ah yes, the dreaded, much aligned adverb. Think of it like a trip to the gynecologist: once in a while it’s necessary, but not every day. One of the worst thing about adverbs is that they make for lazy writing. Examples:

Jane quickly ran to the car. Boring! How about: Jane raced to the car. Better, right? More vivid. Or maybe she jogged. Or scampered. Ran doesn’t tell me her mood. Scampered says she’s happy. Scrambled might imply panic. Staggered might mean she’s had a few too many. Use your verbs wisely. And leave the adverbs out of it! Tight writing uses vivid verbs and fewer adverbs.

Take out the qualifiers where you can, too. Words like: just, very, some, etc. And do I need to mention the dreaded “that”? Get rid of it when it’s not necessary. Keep it when it is.


Prepositional phrases can really drag a sentence out. Fortunately, most of them are pretty easy to trim. For example:

Jane leaned against the door of the car that was parked in the driveway, her fingers strumming on the hood of the vehicle.


Jane leaned against the car door, her fingers strumming the hood. (If we don’t already know the car’s in the driveway then maybe that info isn’t important.) Look how succinct!

Next up...


  1. Very nice and succinct.
    I know I've gotta watch out for those adverbs. I hope you had a fun meeting. :-)

  2. All hail, Kristen the adverb vanquisher!
    I never have used a lot of adverbs, and it drives me nuts when I pick up a bestselling book by a beloved author, and it's riddled with them. Oy!
    My rule about prepositional phrases is that if it takes more than one breath to read the sentence, then it needs to be rewritten. Or, if I have to read a sentence more than once to get the meaning, it needs to be rewritten.

  3. And look at the correct modification! You rule.

  4. In keeping with her blog's strict policy to avoid prepositional phrases and adverbs, Packsaddle slowly backs away from his keyboard and very carefully chooses his next words.

  5. I used to have a serious love affair with adverbs back when I first, *first* started writing. My stuff was litered with them. Ugh, so awful...

    I can be too wordy. Thank goodness for edits. Allows me to go back and yank all of those extra words.

    Great post!

  6. Of all the things, for all of my writings, in all of the places to find them...

    LOL, yeah, I use preps all the time!

  7. I love adverbs like a fat kid loves cake. And there are some really good ones out there! They're not always bad.

  8. I pink puffy heart adverbs.
    I'm new. I'll figure it out someday.

    Is there a part III (Rockys Revenge) for the Lipo?

  9. Oh, man, I love adverbs and qualifiers very very very much, too.

  10. I love adverbs the way I love chocolate bars. Too much, though, adds inches to your manuscript (and your behind). It's probably the same for prep phrases. Great in moderation, and fattening when you over-indulge. Ack.

    Literary Lipo is a great theme for this, Kristen. Suck those extra unwanted pounds of words away. =o)