Adverbs, Vonnegut and Me

Kurt Vonnegut loathed adverbs (a noun, word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group), slaying them at every turn, making me aware how often I use them.

That LY you don’t really need is like wearing too many jewels with your little black dress.

It’s hard to appreciate its elegance drenched in all that bling.

And LY has a slew of cousins that if you’re not careful, will move right in.

She has ALMOST finished

She is running VERY late.

She is walking TOO slow.

Of course, using one now and then is okay, since it may just be part of your charm, but I now see what an adverb junkie I totally am, by nature.

Hemingway, the king of clean prose, rarely used them. I’m rereading Movable Feast and halfway through, have come across one.

He did say, when beginning a piece, write the first true sentence you know, a tip I take to heart.

This all started with a series I discovered called, The Last Interview, and Other Conversations, a collection of writer’s last words.

They’re wonderful…short, poignant, insightful, as if Kurt and Ernest and a host of others, are sitting in your living room expressing how they felt about things.

Chewing the fat, just for you.

Hunter Thompson was another interview I liked. He said, the secret of good writing lies in good notes. As much as I absorb detail, I rarely write it down, never seeming to have a notebook handy, hoping I’ll just remember.

Nora Ephron, in the series said, whatever you’re writing has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

That’s my idea of true success, when you can inspire from the ether.

What’s that Mr. Vonnegut? I haven’t snuck in that many adverbs?

I GLADLY would have, but I’m CAREFULLY and a bit AWKWARDLY trying to write, JUST like you.

Fat chance, I know.   images.jpeg

But a girl can dream.



About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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67 Responses to Adverbs, Vonnegut and Me

  1. aFrankAngle says:

    I like this. Don’t only a tribute to one of your heroes, also good advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    Years ago I was a technical writer for a global high-finance magazine. I got paid by the word, so you better believe my sentences were concise.
    I’m an adverb junky too. My first attempt at a novel is so painful to revisit. I had read that you shouldn’t use too many descriptors, so I limited myself to one or two in EACH instance, ha ha! If I had Kurt’s advice it would have been shortened by half.
    I’m just comfortably sitting while slowly sipping and savoring my extra strong mocha before hurriedly rushing to frantically finish my minimalistic makeup and frizzy curly hair. Have a super wonderful great day, Susannah!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love how you look Skinny. Curly hair is so beautiful and Elizabethan.

      As far as editing goes, always think of that Steinbeck story, how he sent some pages to his publisher who, after reading them, said to his secretary, “I don’t understand it, but what I’ve just read, sounds nothing like John.” The secretary says, “I cleaned it up. You know, corrected all his grammar.” And the publisher said, “Well, you just took the Steinbeck out of Steinbeck.” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I find your prose delightful, Susannah. I know you are constantly trimming sentences, but don’t pare away too much! It would drain the color from your word pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorryless says:

    I love how you love these writers so.

    And I must confess as to flouting . . okay, that might be a strong word . . not abiding to the grammar rules.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dale says:

    I am guilty, so guilty of this. And, to be honest, I never really paid attention to it but well, now feel, I just might have to!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I live and thrive on adverbs and adjectives, prepositions and semi-colons. Mr Vonnegut would hate my writing. I do like his son’s writings-Vonnegut Jr.(or are then one and the same)?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I mentioned Vonnegut is my favorite writer. I might have also mentioned that I was fortunate to win a “write like Vonnegut contest.” it had to be an original story written as Kurt would write it. I was so taken back since it was judged by a group putting together a Kurt Vonnegut tribute. I did apologize to Kurt but loved that I won. I enjoyed this post today.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gail says:

    “Just” is one of my favorite words, I think because it has a calming effect as in, “I didn’t mean any offense, I was just curious.” I know I should avoid using the word, but I just like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I use it too to emphasize. What listening to him or anyone’s advice I respect does is just make me aware of my tendencies. I’m not the best editor catching errors or typos right away. Kurt clearly was better at that. He taught writing a lot, so…and so it goes, as he said. He also said, welcome to the monkey house, so we need to take everything with a lightness of heart as well. 🙂


  9. This advice is difficult to do though I (really) like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. -Eugenia says:

    Guilty! Adverbs are some of my favs. I use the Hemingway app to keep my flowery writing toned down.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Vasca says:

    I enjoyed this, Susannah. Overusing descriptive words is easy…I get carried away. It pays to double check, right? Recently read a piece concerning the usage of ‘this’ and ‘that’…good lesson. Here’s to enjoyable lessons from the master writers as well as The Flouters!!! Coming Attraction!!!


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