The anti-adverb advice for English should be (and often is) stated as specific to -ly manner adverbs; Ben Blatt has found the more highly-regarded writers use just as many adverbs, but use fewer -ly adverbs. This got me thinking about whether such advice exists in other languages. For example, -ment is a common adverb ending in French, so I imagine such adverbs are discouraged as well (but feel free to correct me).

Similarly, -lich is a common ending in German; but I choose that language as an example because its adverbs are "flat". For example, German has the same word for natural as naturally, so -lich is an ending for both adjectives and adverbs. Does anyone know whether German fiction writers are advised to eschew this ending regardless of the in-context part of speech?

  • 1
    You should post this question to german.stackexchange.com ;) Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 21:45
  • 1
    As someone who was born and raised in Germany I can tell you that I have never heard of such a rule for an author who wants to write a text in German. But I have also never read any kind of study on this.
    – Secespitus
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 23:02
  • 1
    Since you mention "whether such advice exists for other languages", I'll mention Portuguese. The equivalent to English -ly adverbs end in -mente and they are not looked down on. In fact, you have such a thing as 'triple adverbilisation' turned into a stylistic resource and used by great authors (imagine something like 'he looked at her slowly, intently, judgingly'), usually associated to a gradation. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 23:07
  • However, one can also suppress the 'mente' (imagine: 'I ran slow and lazily down the street', instead of 'slowly and lazily'). Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 23:10
  • 3
    Thank you for bringing this question here. While most of our users are most proficient in English so it might take a while to get an answer here, this site isn't only for writing in English. Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


I'm a native German speaker and think of myself as well-read, but I'm not a professional writer. At least I'm not paid to write anything other than source code and manuals.

I have never heard of a rule advising against using adverbs in writing in German. Maybe that's because there's no regularity to adverbs in German, and -lich adverbs are just a random selection, not forming their own true subclass, really.

As such, the examples from the question and the answer about Italian do not ring any alarm bells, when translated.

Er lief langsam.

Er lief langsamen Schrittes.

Er lief vorsichtigen Schrittes, als hätte er jedesmal Angst, den Boden zu berühren.


Er rannte.

Er rannte schnell.

All of these variations are more or less semantically equivalent, and while I would not expect to see the more convoluted variants in everyday writing, I wouldn't frown upon finding the simpler examples in "high level" writing.

And some new examples with -lich:

Die Sonne schien.

Die Sonne schien herrlich.

Die Sonne schien freundlich.

Natürlich schien die Sonne.

Sie begrüßten die Sonne herzlich.

As for some of these adverbs being redundant, like the running fast example, I rather perceive them to add colour, or emphasis, or a subjective valuation, which makes for better writing, in my humble opinion.

So my personal verdict is: a rule that discourages adverbs, or -lich adverbs, specifically, does not exist in German.

  • 5
    ( @MonicaCellio lured me here by advertising this question in the German Language SE chat -- if you have any questions about German outside the scope of Writers SE, feel free to drop by in GL-SE :) Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 8:08

This is a very good question, that moves away from english language to embrace language and writing in general.

In Italian, my native language, we have adverbs with a very clear ending, "-mente" (i.e.: "lentamente = slowly"). Of course repeating many words with the same ending sounds dull, and should be avoided.

I have never read about a generic anti-adverb rule in italian. Consider that our language tradtion is traditionally much more rethorical than the english one: we use a lot of subordinates, implicit forms, adjective couplings, and therefore we are not short on adverbs.

After reading writing essays in english, where the usage of adverbs was discouraged, I realized that even when writing in italian I should have used them less.

But rather than just blindly expunge them from the text, you should think about what are adverbs. Grammatically, they are just specific words: the problem here is their function, not the word per se. If you write

He was walking slowly.


He was walking in a slow pace.

it's kind of the same thing, right?

There is nothing wrong in using adverbs, they are part of the speech as anything else. So why we suggest to avoid them?

Because they are at the same time cheap and redundant, and we can write a much better prose if we find a way around them.

Adverbs are cheap, because adverbs are generic, and can be very trite and devoid of meaning. What does "slowly" mean? Is it just a matter of speed, or is there is something more? Adverbs are cheap, because you use one word for something that could be shown with more nuances and details. Consider the "Show, don't tell" principle.

He was walking slowly.

He was walking with hesitant steps, as if he was afraid to hit the ground each time.

Adverbs are redundant, because most of the time don't add anything to a description.

He was running.

He was running fast.

Unless we have a very specific reason to indicate that "fast", we pretty much have everything we need in the verb "to run".

In conclusion: there is not a specific suggestion against adverbs in the italian language, other than to avoid the repetition created by the identical endings in "-mente". But to carefully use them in a prose that aims to be effective, is an advice that is always good taking in consideration.

  • 1
    While I upvoted your answer, I must say I disagree with the idea that adverbs are cheap and redundant (I'm also thinking of italian and Portuguese, since both languages have a different 'word economy' when compared to English). One may use them poorly to create cheap and redundant phrases, or one may use them well to create rich and nuanced phrases. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 9:58
  • 1
    English focuses a lot on strong verbs (he spoke loudly = he shouted) and on using a single word to convey an idea, whereas Portuguese (and I believe Italian too, but do feel free to correct me) not only welcomes multi-word phrases but also encourages them. Adverbs add nuances and undertones to a verb, enriching the idea one wants to transmit. How can one replace 'he smiled lividly' with 'he grinned' (I got that suggestion, once)? The adverb brings the emotion to life while the verb describes the action: that is the true power of the adverb IMHO. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 10:06
  • @SaraCosta I totally agree with you, you are right. Mine was a very sharp generalization. I was not looking for a deep explanation, but rather to provide a reflection on the meaning of adverbs. I did mention that latin languages are much more "verbose" than anglo-saxons (as you say, we "encourage multi-word phrases).
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 11:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.