Examples from my own writing:

She smiled kindly. “Maybe I can help you. What are you trying to find?”

"Probably," he said apologetically, as if he were personally responsible for this. "It's the same for everyone, though. And it makes sense: if people could choose to be happy then everybody would be happy.

If so, what are their "superior" alternatives?

2 Answers 2


OVER-using adverbs is a sign of bad writing, just like OVER-using anything else.

In your first example, I think it's fine. There are different kinds of smiles, it's hard to describe the differences between them using "showing" words, and it's important that people know what kind of smile this is. So I don't have a problem with "kindly". Technically, I guess you could let people assume she's being kind since her words are kind, but there are different ways to say those words, too. The "kindly" makes it clear she's not be sarcastic or superior with the words... I'd leave it.

The second one is a bit dodgy, just because it's redundant. "Apologetically" and "as if he were personally responsible" give pretty much the same information. I'd pick one or the other.

So, while some writing "experts" promote a near-complete ban on adverbs, a lot of these experts judiciously use adverbs themselves. (I'm looking at you, Stephen King). Like everything else, they can be over-done. But that doesn't mean they aren't useful in their place.


As Kate said, over-using adverbs is never good, but they do tend to serve some strong sense when needed. Some writers follow the no-adverbs attitude but it is OK to use one occasionally. Usually there is a word describing the action and the adverb together for example "Said quietly" is quite similar to "whispered". And it's especially noticed the trivial actions of the characters such as "see", "walk", "say" and so on. On your first example it was well written but about the second one I back Kate's opinion. There are a lot of places where the adverb could be replaced with some sort of explanation as you did on the second example. They can be useful when placed in the right spot.

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