The Ups and Downs of Adverbs

Welcome to the latest edition of Copyediting with Keli.

In this session, I discuss lesser-known adverbs we can avoid in our writing.

Here’s a recap of what I covered in the vlog:

When you think of adverbs, which ones come to mind?

For many of us, it’s those ending in -ly.

Another group of adverbs sneaks into my work. These are prepositions taking the role of an adverb. A fancy description is adverbial particle.

Examples of adverbial particles are: above and below, in and out, off and on, up and down. What transforms these words from preposition to adverb is the lack of a noun serving as the object of the preposition.

The two adverbial particles that creep into my writing most often are up and down.

Here’s an example of a sentence using up.

His betrothed entered the room, and the smitten gentleman stood up.

In this case, up isn’t necessary. We know the besotted fellow is standing up, so we can leave out the word and tighten our writing.

His betrothed entered the room, and the smitten gentleman stood.

Here’s an example using down.

The little lost girl burst into tears, and the police officer knelt down to comfort her.

Down isn’t necessary. We know the kindly officer knelt down, so we can omit the word.

Using up and down as I did in the examples isn’t incorrect, but since I tend to produce words aplenty, I look for places where I can put my prose on a diet in order to tighten my writing. Eliminating unnecessary adverbial particles is one way I reduce my word count.

Being a writer, at least a wordy one like me, does have its ups and downs at times. But now, you’ll be able to trim unnecessary words if you choose to use this tip.


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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24 Responses to The Ups and Downs of Adverbs

  1. Thanks for the reminder to eliminate unnecessary ups and downs in our writing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do the same in our real life.

  2. Katie Ganshert says:

    This is something Erica Vetsch really helped me understand. I used to add up and down all the time when I referred to sitting and standing. But no more! Great stuff, Keli. 🙂

  3. You have a super perfect teacher’s voice. Love this and hope you have a great week!

  4. Keli, I love that I can hear your voice in addition to your great advice. Okay, I should stand and applaud … since we know I should not stand “up” to applaud. I read a post about critique groups … advantages and disadvantages. I responded that I went to one group but one time. HOWEVER, in that ONE visit to the critique group someone pointed out that I had the MC sit down in the chair. That one comment remains indelibly etched in my brain. I love this new series, not only because I get to have a virtual meeting with you, but because I can also learn from your editorial experience. Thanks 🙂

  5. I learned this about a year ago when I hired an editor–it really helps and cleans up the work! Thanks Keli again!

  6. Erica Vetsch says:

    Yay for eliminating adverbial particles! 🙂 Love these vlogs. 🙂

  7. Great examples, Keli! As an editor and former journalism student, I’m always looking at how to make sentences less redundant! I think I’ll write a blog post about it soon. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Loree Huebner says:

    I love your vlogs…I always take away great tips and advice from your Copyediting with Keli posts. I am an up and down person.

  9. Great tips! Dr. Dennis Hensley critiqued one of my first pages at a writing conference and helped me realize I didn’t need up/down and also if I had an ellipsis at the end of the sentence, I actually need 4 dots! 🙂 Loved the vlog, Keli.

  10. jeanniecampbell says:

    i always go back and look for up and down in particular. b/c i use those terms in my speech, they show up in my writing, even though unnecessary. but at least i’m aware, and that’s half the battle, right? 🙂

  11. Hey, Keli! I awarded you the Tell Me About Yourself Blog Award. I’ll be posting it tomorrow. No pressure to participate if you’re really busy, though. Have a great day!

  12. Wendy says:

    Look at how fancy you are. It makes my lips turn up in a smile and me sit down to want to read more. Did you cringe? 😀
    ~ Wendy

  13. cynthiaherron says:

    Yes, trimming the unnecessary! Still learning, Keli! I’m guilty, guilty, guilty! 🙂

  14. Thanks for the helpful post! 🙂

  15. Cindy R. Wilson says:

    Oh Keli, great post today! I’m doing a lot better with adverbs, but those adverbial particles are definitely a weakness. I will keep this in mind for sure when I start editing. Thanks!

  16. Great tips, Keli! Those “ly” words are easy to find, but you brought up some sneakier culprits. 🙂

  17. You are the master editor my dear. I need all the help I can get on this stuff! I think I already asked you to edit my next book…..

  18. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks for your great comments. I’d stand up to applaud you all for your support and encouragement, but the pesky internal editor in me won’t let me, so I’ll simply sit at my computer and send you all cyber hugs instead. 🙂

  19. I’m always searching for ways to put my writing on a diet. Thanks for this lesson, Keli!

  20. Carla Gade says:

    Thanks for this tip! Now, off to check my manuscript for those adverbial particles!

  21. bethkvogt says:

    I had to stop and laugh at Wendy’s comment. That girl is sooo funny!
    Excellent tips. I had to learn the whole “up” and “down” thing, Keli. Those tripped me up for a while. I kept falling (down) on my face, figuratively speaking. (And, yep, there’s an -ly word in that sentence too!)


  22. Julie Nilson says:

    One of the women in my critique group is an adverb bloodhound, and knowing that she’s going to sniff those out has helped my writing a LOT.

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