Hemingway-on-Writing-615x290  “What have I thought?” Pablo said and moved his tongue around exploringly inside his lips. “Que te importa, what have I thought.” -For Whom the Bell Tolls

Words ending in  “ly” are sprinkled throughout For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and I have to ask, “Does this make it any less impressive?” Some writers, including my beta readers, will say “Show, don’t tell”  or “Cut all words ending in “ly”. If you use stronger verbs you don’t need the adverbs.” But I believe the above passage taken from Hemingway’s book is an excellent example of how an “ly” word can work. I can clearly- there’s one of those adverbs- picture in my mind Pablo’s tongue feeling around his lips as I read this dialogue.

During one of the many revisions of my manuscript I encountered this issue, as I’m sure many writers have. With a red pen, I went through my work slashing away all the horrible “ly” words. Then I stopped. “Why am I doing this,” I asked myself, “just because other writers before me said it was the right thing to do?” So I dropped the pen and turned to my library pulling down several of my favorite books. GASP! Many great writers used adverbs from time to time without diminishing the quality of their work. After thinking this over, I went back to my manuscript with a fresh perspective. I would leave the “ly” words alone.


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