Students love their emphatic adverbs – otherwise known as the completely unnecessary, totally redundant (hah! See what I did there?) usage of the words “very”, “completely”, “extremely” and the likes. It’s okay – I’m quite guilty of it too.
So, what’s the real issue here? The problem comes in when your writing starts relying almost exclusively on emphatic adverbs for describing things. Consider the following sentences:
The hall was completely silent.
The hall was so silent, that not a whisper could be heard from the students.
What’s the difference between the two sentences? Not the meaning, because they both convey the same message: the hall was silent. But if I ask you, “how silent was the hall?” the only thing you can say from reading the first sentence is, “completely silent”. The difference, as you probably guessed, is in the quality of description. The second sentence packs a lot more descriptive detail than the first. So, how silent was the hall? Completely silent – not a whisper could be heard from the students. A far more vivid picture than the first! Always remember: effective writing uses emphatic adverbs to increase the effect of (and not in lieu of) a description.
Happy writing, and stay tuned for the totally terrible, very bad writing mistake #2!
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