Just a quick blog post, as I’m currently in the depths of essay writing myself. One thing we are always told at university is to delete adverbs from academic writing, and at first I felt slightly put out. But now, I am starting to understand.

As some of you will have read in my previous blog post, I do have a penchant for the word ‘incredibly’. Not because I think it is a particularly hard-hitting or apt word, just because it’s one of those things you just can’t help. But when I sat down and addressed the problem, I managed to gradually squeeze the millionth usage of the word out, and tighten my writing somewhat.

Especially in academic writing, we use adverbs to justify ourselves. I certainly hide behind them as a kind of mask, but if your writing is refined enough, you shouldn’t need them in such a setting. I’m not one of these advocates of deleting them in all forms of creative writing, because frankly, sometimes they are needed. But when it comes to writing with authority, try cutting half out and see what a difference it makes to your writing.

Step 1: WHAT IF: You cut them all out?

Step 2 (optional) : Cry at the gaping hole you now feel is present in your writing.

Step 3: Begin to rectify this gaping hole by doing the following:

Make sure you are using the strongest possible verb you can to convey what you have to say. And if you are saying something is ‘incredibly interesting’, ask yourself why are you saying this? Surely the fact it has made its way into your limited 2500/3000/5000 word essay means that it is implicit that it is interesting. A reader, who is most likely to be an academic will treat this as a given.

Adverbs such as ‘utterly’ are often empty words, and though we use them in everyday speech, and they add to our idiolect, in an academic setting they very often add nothing. Take them out and tighten up your writing.

So there we have it. A short blog as to why you should take out your adverbs and superlatives from your academic writing. From someone who up until now, has been utterly reluctant to do so…


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