How Should Writers Toss The Adverb?

Writing with minimal words to get your point across to the reader can be challenging for any writer. Over at Words In The Treehouse, Trish Nicolson has some great tips on how to make your point without saying alot and making sure your reader gets it.


Adverbs MyThoughts Mind Map

Adverbs MyThoughts Mind Map (Photo credit: MyThoughtsMindMaps)


How to Write Without Adverbs

This morning’s email from a friend, written in panic, and ending with “Help!” was sparked by advice from the judge of a story competition he wanted to enter. The advice was this: ‘Do not use adverbs.’

“But the second word of my story is an adverb!” he wailed, “Why can’t I use it? Why? Why?”This morning’s email from a friend, written in panic, and ending with “Help!” was sparked by advice from the judge of a story competition he wanted to enter. The advice was this: ‘Do not use adverbs.’

My breakfast sat on the table, my tummy rumbled, but a friend in need turns congealed porridge and cold tea to no account. I clattered out this advice on the keyboard:

An ‘ad-verb’ is added to a verb to condition it: make it stronger, say more, be more explicit. If you need to use an adverb; if you have to prop the verb up with a walking stick or a rod stuck down its spine, you are using the wrong verb – it is too weak to do the job you want it to do.  Stronger, appropriate verbs that say and do precisely what you want them to say and do, without face-lifts and crutches, give zest to your writing. And cutting adverbs reduces your word count. Read more here.




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The Perfect Paragraph

I was always told that a paragraph had to be at least three sentences long. But then, once I got the three sentences typed, I wondered when I should stop. Do I stop at five sentences, seven sentences or what. Well, I discovered the answer at Daily Writing Tips and they have summoned up this dilemma quite nice.

Book header/footer

Book header/footer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Long Should a Paragraph Be?

by Mark Nichol

A paragraph should consist of six to seven sentences. No, it should be no longer than three sentences long. Actually, it should include a topic sentence, several supporting sentences, and possibly a concluding sentence. Sigh. Can I end this paragraph yet?

All three of the declarations in the previous paragraph (the first pair of which come, respectively, from sources within Purdue University and Stanford University, two of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the United States), and any similarly quantitative statements, are wrong. The correct answer is that a paragraph has to be long enough to reach its end.

Like this one.

A paragraph can be as long or as short as you want it to be. It can unfold for countless pages or consist of one word — even one letter.


(I meant to write, “Wait!” but was interrupted.)

The determination to make in composing a given paragraph is not the number of sentences or words or letters, but the number of ideas. The rule of thumb — in nonfiction, at least — is that each paragraph should focus on one idea or concept; when you shift to a new idea, shift to a new paragraph. (In fiction, its function is more nebulous: A paragraph is a unit of writing that further develops a story through exposition.)

However, ideas, as we all know, are slippery things, difficult to package and unlikely to remain in their allotted places. How big or small is an idea? What about an idea within an idea? Read more here.

The Great Grammar Book


Title:The Great Grammar Book
Author:Marsha Sramek
Publisher:Arch Press

Basic grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are essential for writing. Sramek has provided an excellent all-in-one reference guide and workbook. In the beginning of the guide, Sramek provides a 100-question test. Readers have an opportunity to test their knowledge before tackling each chapter. Readers can get to know where they need help. This will certainly save time and anguish.

Writers, students and business professionals, will find this text very useful. This guide has twelve chapters that cover topics such as, subject-verb agreement, common errors, pronouns, punctuation, commas and irregular verbs. Also included: a usage glossary, successful writing strategies and answer keys.

Each chapter highlights a brief definition of the topic that will be covered. Extensive exercises, rules of usage and examples are located throughout each chapter for easy reference. Each chapter focuses on the most common errors in English. Examples demonstrate how to recognize and correct errors.

Each term discussed, is covered in great detail. All the rules that apply are listed with examples. One I found interesting was, Identifying Prepositional Phrases. Sramek states, “Remember that prepositional phrases begin with a proposition and end with a noun or pronoun. The prepositions that students most often fail to recognize as prepositions are with, within, and without.”


These are also common compound prepositions:

according to- because of- in spite of

across from- far from- instead of

along with- in front of- on account of

aside from- in place- of on top of

Sramek’s chapter on Successful Writing Strategies is also very helpful. This chapter helps readers understand how to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases.


People who are looking for bargains often shop at outlet malls or discount warehouses.

People looking for bargains often shop at outlet malls or discount warehouses.

The changes in the example sentences are obvious, but may not be recognized by someone who needs help in this area. Sramek provides examples of phrases and meaningless sentence extenders that can be eliminated. Sramek states, Eliminate the phrases “He is a man who” and “in terms of.”


He is a man who is hard to get to know.

He is hard to get to know.

The employee was undependable in terms of often coming to work late.

By often coming to work late the employee was undependable.

Sentence structure becomes stronger and more concise. By the time readers finish each helpful chapter, they will know how make sentences shorter and stronger.

Overall, readers will understand how to identify grammar problem areas that need improvement. Readers will have fun learning the rules of grammar. Readers will enjoy the exercises and tests provided. And finally, readers will overcome their writing fears.

Marsha Sramek began teaching high school English over 30 years ago. Until her recent career shift to textbook writing and publishing, she taught in public and private schools, as well as tutoring high school seniors in the college application process. She was the Faculty Sponsor/Editor of the school newsletter and spent four years classroom-testing this textbook. Ms. Sramek never enjoyed studying grammar as a student and became determined to write a grammar book that was fun to read as well as a book that was comprehensive.

She and her husband enjoy traveling, hiking, and gardening. They divide their time between residences in Houston, TX and Asheville, NC.

Sramek first published this book in 2009. Students and instructors loved the book, but they had suggestions for improvement. This latest edition incorporated those suggestions and was reprinted in 2011.